An Arlington man writes: "My work seldom requires me to fly, so I really wasn't prepared for what I ran into at National Airport when I had to go to New York last week.

"The minute I walked into the main terminal, a young woman began pinning a flower on my lapel. When I asked her why she was doing it, she just smiled and told me, "We're putting these on all the handsome men today and asking for contributions for our Grafflesnallke Society." I am 62 years old, bald and overweight, but as any chump who is called handsome and young by a woman would have done, I handed her a dollar without even asking her to repeat the name of the alleged charity.

Between that point and the ticket counter, and then between the ticket counter and the departure gate, I spotted at least a dozen other hustlers of all ages, sexes and colors. Several of them appeared ready to brace me for a contribution until they noticed the flower in my lapel: then they turned away. I assume they have discovered that a sheep shorn at the entrance to the terminal does not grow new fleece quickly enough for a second shearing on the same morning.

"Once I had boarded my plane, my mind turned to more important matters than the multiplicity of solicitors at National Airport. It wasn't until my round trip journey was almost at an end and I was debarking from the plane that brought me back to Washington that I remembered the hustlers, for again I was surrounded by them.

"The first to reach my side was a sweet young thing who pinned a flower in my lapel and said, "You'll want to make a donation to help our work, won't you?" I smiled back at her and said, "No way, baby - I'm the cheapest jerk in town". She indulged herself in a slight shrug, permitted the phony smile to slide off her face, and turned away without a word.

"And I made it all the way to the substation without being accosted again. After all, there was a flower in my lapel, wasn't there? It brought me through the ordeal feeling born again, rather than shorn again.