Elaine fox Mariggio writer: "I, too was taken in by the panhandler at Wisconsin and Western. The story was the same as that he told you, with the embellishment that he owns a beauty parlor in Northern Virginia and if I'd give him a couple of dollars his wife would set my hair without charge.

"After I realized I'd been taken, I watched this nicely dressed, well-groomed gentleman 'hit' another half-dozen people in less than 10 minutes. No wonder he's well-dressed. He made a tax-free income of $6 in 10 minutes."

At $36 an hour, Elaine, he can afford both taxes and nice clothes.

If there is an Italian word for chutzpah , it might serve as a headline for a piece of news furnished by Anna A. Kennedy of the Italian Embassy here. Anna writes:

"The panhandler often described in your column has struck again.

"A 30th and Dumbarton, he gave me the line that some kids had siphoned the gas out of his car.

"When I showed him that all I had was a 1,000 lire note (a souvenir), he said, 'Well, can I have that? I can change it at the bank.'"

Perhaps you should have offered him a promissory note, Elaine. Do you suppose he'd have accepted it without two consigners?