Holding on to Mom's skirt is a good rule when you are 3 years old and in an unfamiliar city where people don't speak your language, a visiting Dutch youngster found out Tuesday.

The blond child was waiting for a bus with his family near Union Station at about 5 p.m. when he followed the wrong family onto the wrong bus. He found himself bound for Annandale and unable to communicate his problem with his fellow passengers.

half way through Arlington the bus driver realized the child's plight and flagged down Arlington police Agent Frank Krongmann. Krongmann said all the boy could tell him was "my name is Tom," apparently the only phrase in English he knew.

Tom did not seem frightened, Krongmann said, and did not cry. Krongmann took the boy to the Arlington police station where he called other jurisdictions to inquire about missing persons reports.

At the same time, Tom's parent, upset about the disappearance of their son, approached a cab driver who took them to U.S. Park Police for help, Park Policeman Clark Guy said.

After Arlington police talked to park police, Krongmann took Tom back to Union Station for a joyful reunion with his family, who he said were more upset by the experience than the boy was.

In fact, Krongmann said. Tom "told his mother in his own language how exciting it was to ride in a police car."

The family, whom police could not identify yesterday, then left for New York to continue what was described as a year-long trip around the world.