ALL IN A DAY'S WORK: Who says you can't find good service these days?

In the rush to get to a performance at the nearby Kennedy Center one rainy weekend evening, a patron at Nectar (824 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-298-8085) mistakenly took the wrong black umbrella, which wouldn't have been so bad, except that the umbrella he left with was a one-of-a-kind, handcrafted model worth several hundred dollars and of sentimental value to its owner, a Washington lawyer.

No problem, restaurant director Jarad Slipp told the man whose umbrella was missing in action. Slipp had the other diner's cell phone number and would call him. When Slipp eventually reached the Guy With the Wrong Umbrella later that night, the customer acknowledged his mistake -- but added that his wife had left the umbrella behind at the theater. Slipp dispatched a server from Nectar to look for the item; two hours later, having searched all the center's auditoriums, the server returned empty-handed. Slipp then called the head of security and told him to keep an eye out for the umbrella.

Trying to be helpful, the Guy Who Took the Wrong Umbrella returned to the Kennedy Center the next day, discovered the umbrella in Lost and Found, and arranged to bring it to Nectar. "We're home free!" Slipp thought -- until he opened the umbrella. Somewhere from the time it left Nectar to the time it was returned, the shaft of the umbrella had been broken.

Not one to call it quits, Slipp tracked down the manufacturer, James Smith & Sons in London, and shipped off the broken umbrella. "Beyond repair," came the verdict from overseas. So Slipp had the company make a new one -- same wood, same stain, same gold band -- to the tune of almost $500. And when it finally arrived, three weeks later, Slipp decided to return the umbrella personally, along with a gift certificate, to the lawyer at his office downtown.

"Oh, just leave it at the front desk," the lawyer's secretary told him on the phone.

"Needless to say, I didn't," says Slipp, who handed over the umbrella only when he was face to face with its grateful owner.