What happened to you? I've been looking for you for the past two weeks to warn you about a new con game, but I haven't seen you around.

What did you do, take a vacation? It's a good thing you finally got back because some time today you really ought to start working on your income tax return.It's is not wise to put things off until the las moment. What I wanted to warn you about traces back to a column I wrote about the great actor. The Panhandler.

In the days that followed the publication of tha column, many District Liners wrote to tell me about their encounters with The Panhandler. However, a Wheaton reader reacted differently.

"I have read you reports about The Panhandler with great interest," he wrote. "I think now met an even greater actor - a really super con man.

"If you ever advertise something for sale, let me suggest that you take a highly skeptical sttitude if a prospective buyer offers a check for your property but can't produce solid ID. Especially if he explains that he 'just moved here a couple of days ago.'

"Obviously, he's not in the phone book or in any city directory. He doesn't even have a phone yet. Gets his mail at a post office box, and since his big days for 'buying' are Saturdays and Sundays, when the banks are closed, you can't even phone to find out whether his check is good.

"But he has a driver's license and some letters addressed to the name he is using, and as I said, he's really some kind of actor. It doesn't occur to you until late that all the stuff he offered as 'proof' of his identity could have been easily manufactrured by the man himself. The one factor does most to sway your judgement is the thought, 'Surely a nice a man like this wouldnht walk out with my expensive camera in exchange for a bum cheek,would he?'

"You bet your sweet life he would. You have just given away you camera to a crook. You will never see him or you camera again, and when you call the police Check and Fraud people to tell them about you 'buyer' they'll sigh and say 'That guy sure was busy over the weekend.' It might be useful to warn your readers that if they turn their goods over to this man they will be paying a high price to witness a very brief performance by a great actor."


You may recall that another topic under dicussion when we lost touch with each other two weeks ago was chain letters.

Among reader comments that arrived in the wake of that dicussion was one from Mrs. Roger Dunlap of Alexandria. It enclosed a clipping credited to the newsletter published by St. Paul's United Methodist Church of Duncan, Okla. The clipping said:

If you're unhappy with your minister, simply have your church board send a copy of this letter to six other churches that are also tired of their ministers.

"Then bundle up your minister and send him (or her) to the church at the top of the list in the letter. Add the name of your church to the bottom. Within a week, you will receive 16,435, ministers and one of them should be a dandy. Have faith. Do not break this chain. One church broke the chain and got its old minister back."

I have seen similar texts circulated for wives who are tired of their husbands. This version seems a bit funnier to me, possibly because I am not a minister but I am a husband.


Floyd E. Davis III informs me that a Christmas card mailed last December from the sixth floor of 1629 K St. NW to the first floor at that same address has now been delivered.

During its journey, the envelope acquired two clues that help to explain where it has been for four months. One is a stamped legend that says, "Missent in the International Mail Service." The other is a postmark that says "Oakland, CA, April 9."

Most Christmas cards are delivered promptly, but a few are not, alas. Those that are not delivered promptly usually turn up in December of some subsequent year. During their hibernation, they sleep quietly in supposedly empty mail sacks - extra equipment used only during the big Christmas rush. So Floyd really has a choice here: He can consider the Postal Service four months late in a delivery - or eight months ahead of its usual schedule for rectifying such an error.

Think positively, Floyd.