His mom always told him it wasn't polite to stare, but what could John Vedsegaard of Rockville do? There he was, in line at the drive-in window of Suburban Bank's Democracy Boulevard office, when he noticed one of the tellers picking up a box of dog biscuits.

Dog biscuits?

Another wild promotion scheme, thought John. For years banks have tried to lure customers with toasters and trivets and trinkets and tidbits. Now they're trying Milkbone, for heaven's sake. The economy must be in trouble.

Actually, what John witnessed was yet another renewal of a lovely seven-year custom.

Since 1976, tellers Joanne McGrew and Elsa Habtom have handed out a dog biscuit to any customer who pulls up to the Democracy Boulevard windows with a dog in the car.

According to branch manager Al Wigmore III, no one remembers exactly how the tradition got started. But it has proven to be such a success that the bank now picks up the tab for the biscuits.

The best part of the tradition, says Wigmore, is the way the dogs stand on their hind legs as soon as Master or Mistress pulls up to the window. "They know what's coming," Wigmore said. "I never would have believed it, but you ought to see them."

What we all ought to do is to salute Joanne and Elsa. Who says you can't inject a little personality into deposits and withdrawals?