It was "a cold, miserable, rainy day." Marianne Karydes of Arlington was retrieving some youngsters from a movie matinee when her car hit an especially bad pothole that had been "completely obscured by rainwater."

"When I got out of the hole, my tire was flat," she reported. "I thought my wheel might be broken, too. I sought help at a 'service' station nearby, but the attendant laughed in my face. I called several other stations with similar results. Not only were they furnishing no road service, they were highly amused with my naive presumption that they were in business to furnish service.

"Cold, wet, frustrated and angry, I deposited my young passengers in a nearby restaurant and returned to my car. As I approached it, a man drove up and parked. I recognized him as a customer who had been in the service station in which I tried to get help.

"I've been watching you for an hour," he said, "and I couldn't believe the people in that service station wouldn't help you. If you have a jack, I'll change your tire."

And he did. In the gathering gloom of the late afternoon, he got thoroughly wet as he changed the tire, made sure the wheel was all right and that the motor would start. Before Marianne could jump back out of her car to thank him, he was gone, and the only identification she can furnish us is that his car bore Maryland license tag FCS-977.

Oh, dear. In the old days, it would have been easy to identify him. One of my friends in blue would have matched his license number with a name and address in seconds, via computer. But although vehicle registrations are still public records, policemen have been instructed that the Privacy Act restricts dissemination of such information except for good cause. Rather than ask a policeman to risk reprimand for providing me with information, I'm going to let Sir Galahad's license number speak for itself. I hope your friends recognize you from your tag number, sir, because I'm sure they'll agree with Marianne and me that your kindness is worth noting.

WELL, LIVE AND LEARN

Two readers have sent me clippings from last Saturday's "Check Your Knowledge" feature in The Washington Star.

Question No. 2 was, "Who invented the stock ticker?"

The answer given was, "Stock Ticker, in 1870."

I would have gotten that one wrong. I thought it was Thomas A. Edison.

COMPLAINT DEPT.

You will have to be patient with me as I attempt to reproduce this letter, written in tiny script by a wavering hand:

"Since I read four praise (no, I guess that's "your praise") of the paper boys, wonder where you find such good ones.

"The one we have here in Riverdale is the world's worst. He throws the paper in 6-foot snow drifts, in the yard when it is raining, and (something something something that I can't make out) it is soaked thru to the center. It is thrown on the (something, "porch," maybe) and is blown all over the yard. Have you ever tried to put a news paper together after it has been scattered to the four winds? We are senior citizens and things are hard for us to do but we enjoy our paper and would not want to have to go out to the store to buy one every day. P.S. I would prefer not to have my name published."

Dear heart, I can't even decipher it. My eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be. But one doesn't need sharp eyes to understand the essence of what you have written. You would like your paper delivered in a reasonable way, and we would like to see that you get it that way. I am forwarding your letter to our vice president in charge of setting off firecrackers under negligent carriers, and I hope that he will be able to persuade the lad to change his ways or look for other work. Thanks for telling us. We don't know we have a problem unless our readers take the trouble to write.

SEASONAL NOTE

No, you have not seen the first robin of spring. As we note annually, there is no such thing. Some robins winter here.

AH, SO!

Teng Hsiao-ping's name will be spelled differently from now on, but Don Epperson says it will still sound like his car does when he starts it up in the morning.