Bert Vos, of McLean, may be getting his beauty sleep by now. Then again, his discovery is the stuff of permanent bad dreams. He has an alarm clock that seems to provide him only 48 minutes to the hour.

The clock is a Timex. It has all the usual glow-in-the-dark panache, all the usual sleek designer looks, all the usual buttons to bop if you want to steal 10 more minutes of snooze. But as Bert soon noted after using the clock for several days, the space between each pair of numerals is divided into four parts rather than five.

What gives, Timex?

Susie Watson, a public relations operative for the company, recognized Bert's discovery for the serious emergency that it was. The entire P.R. staff convened in her office. As researcher Cathy McCulloch listened via long-distance, the Timexers took turns passing a Bert Vos-model alarm clock around in a circle. Each staffer examined it, and all agreed: There were four pie slices between numerals instead of five.

After much hilarity, and much fanciful hypothesizing, one of the staffers came up with an explanation.

The three bars painted between each pair of numerals represent quarter-hours, not minutes. Most people set their alarms on the quarter-hour. So Timex gave its customers three bars between numerals rather than four so customers would have a spot representing a quarter-hour on which to line up the alarm pointer.

Susie Watson asked to be quoted as follows: "Timex is more concerned with whether you wake up on time than with whether you can tell exactly what time it is when you wake up in the morning and are bleary-eyed and sleepy."

What happens if you like to set your alarm for five or ten minutes after the hour? Don't buy Timex, I guess.

We live with, and suffer from, many misconceptions in this river village. One is that churches are sanctuaries from the rest of the heathen world. Two is that women don't know how to run fast. Three is that no one cares about anyone else in the Naked City.

Wrong, wrong and wrong is how it went one recent Saturday afternoon in Foggy Bottom. My reporter is Kathy Slosky, who lives on 25th Street NW, just down the block from St. Stephen-Martyr Church.

Kathy's apartment overlooks the sidewalk. She heard the sound of pounding footsteps and looked out to discover three women, all well over 50, running along, quite quickly and single file.

It was clear that something was very wrong, although Kathy didn't know what. "Do you want me to call the police?" she shouted. "Yes," return-shouted one of the women, in mid-stride.

Officers soon arrived, and Kathy went outside to see what the commotion was about. Turns out a man had stolen a purse from a fourth woman as she was attending mass. The victim is deaf, so she never heard the thief approach. However, the three other women saw what happened and gave chase.

The police recovered the victim's purse two blocks away, but her wallet was not inside. Meanwhile, the three chasers recounted to Kathy a remarkable story of urbanites sticking together.

The three are St. Stephen regulars, so they are well aware that there have been previous purse-snatchings there during Saturday services.

The three women all told Kathy that they never leave their purses on the floor because they'd be easy prey. All a thief has to do is sit in the row behind, reach down and help himself.

The three thief-chasers also said they're careful to observe any "parishioner" who changes seats often during the sermon. Just before the theft from the deaf woman, a man changed pews several times. The three chasers-to-be exchanged glances, and then whispers. "Let's get him in the middle of Father's prayers," one of the woman said to another.

Alas, this thief was a little too quick. But he knew the women saw him, he knew they chased him and he'll never come back if he knows what's good for him.

Charlie Arnason, of Chevy Chase, tells about the man who lay on his deathbed. His family gathered round. His wife asked if he had any last words.

"I have done nothing I regret," the man replied, "and, boy, do I regret it!"

Bill Peters, of Rockville, says the banking business should no longer offer adjustable rate mortgages. Interest rates have gone up so much, says Bill, that an ARM costs an ARM and a LEG.

Herm Albright says this sign hangs on a wall at the IRS: "In God We Trust. Everyone else we audit."