Welcome back from the beach, from the lounge chair in the back yard, from wherever. Here are a few episodes you missed in the continuing carnival called the Washington Business World. . . .

A Bethesda couple was wandering through the microwave oven section of the Wheaton Plaza Montgomery Ward's last week, minding their own business, when they noticed a woman at the other end of the aisle.

Cool as a cucumber, the woman pulled two frozen steak sandwiches out of her purse, plopped open the door of a demonstrator oven and pushed a few buttons.

Yup, the oven was plugged in. A few seconds later (that's the beauty of microwaves, after all), the woman's dinner was done. And off she marched, munching as she went. . . .

Neal Plotkin of Rockville stumped an entire carful of Washington musicians en route to a singing engagement with this one:

Which section of the beltway runs closest to the District of Columbia?

If you voted for the Georgia Avenue interchange in Silver Spring or the I-295 interchange in Oxon Hill, go back two spaces and forfeit a turn.Anyone who voted for anything else had better invest in a map or compass.

The answer: a trick, of sorts.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

That pock-marked span actually runs across the southernmost point of the District, which happens to sit in/on the Potomac River. . . .

Your friendly neighborhood columnist got embroiled in yet another losing battle as a consumer.

The scene was a liquor store. The temperature was in the 90s. The only known antidote was a six-pack of a well-known light beer.

I would have bought this particular brand anyway, but I was delighted to see that the row of Well-Known Light in the cooler was marked "special -- $2.65." I wouldn't remember the regular price, but I assumed I had lucked into a sale and was about to save a dime or so.

The guy at the register rang up $2.75. I broke in with hey-wait-a-minute-the-sign-said-$2.65. He explained that the regular price was $2.75. The stockboy just hadn't gotten around to changing the sign.

"But if it's that big a deal . . .," the clerk said, hoping I'd say, "No, no, it isn't."

"No, no, it isn't," I said, right on cue, as I paid the extra dime. And proceeded to hate myself for the next hour.And to spend the rest of the evening dreaming up 10 comeback-lines-I-should-have-uttered.

Isn't the customer always right, even if a sign isn't?

Not if you're a Bethesda college student we'll call Pat.

She considered herself lucky to get a last-minute summer job working the counter at a Montgomery County dry cleaners. Then she got a baptism from a customer that made her wish she were back in a drafty library, cramming for a calculus exam.

The trouble began the way a lot of real-world business trouble begins -- with a rule.

The boss had directed Pat to ask each customer dropping off cleaning or sewing for three things: a surname, a first initial and a telephone number.

Why the phone number? Because it would be easier to locate the customer in case an article of clothing were lost, or an unforeseen question arose, the boss explained.

Enter Mr. R. (for Rotten) Temper, arms full of dirty shirts.

"Your phone number, sir?" Pat said.

"I refuse to tell you," the man replied. "Everyone here knows me."

"Except me," said Pat, explaining that she had just started working there.

"Well, the manager knows me," the man said. "Why don't you go get him?" Whereupon Pat went and got him. He pacified the customer, said he'd make an exception in this case and reassured Pat that she hadn't done anything wrong.

Replay two weeks later: the customer returned, his arms full of more dirty shirts. Pat went to wait on him. He looked right past her for a few seconds, then called past her to the back of the store: "Can't I get somebody up here to wait on me?"

Honestly now: would you have been able to restrain yourself from saying something sassy?

Pat half did and half didn't. First she thanked the guy. When he looked puzzled, she added that she'd been trying to diet all year, and it must have worked, since she's turned invisible.

Then she secretly vowed to go to summer school next year.