If you're a student of lame excuses, here's enough material for a PhD dissertation . . . .A woman took her husband to the emergency room at Arlington Hospital because he was suffering from shortness of breath . . . .The husband was taken into the treatment area while the wife filled out the usual forms. Then she started to walk through a door to join him . . . .Sorry, but you're not allowed to, said a nurse, because "we prefer to observe the patient as he really is. Sometimes, patients put on a brave front for their loved ones." . . . .I've never seen a brave front conceal the true degree and danger of shortness of breath. Nor have I ever seen it affect the hard-and-fast tests that indicate how sick somebody really is . . . .Granted, you can't have everyone and his uncle floating through the "action" part of an E.R. But since when is it out of line for a sick man to hold his wife's hand? . . . .

An amigo says the trip to Disney World was mostly Dullsville . . . .But he liked the license plate he saw . . . .It read BAA BAA . . . .Amigo wondered if the guy was a shepherd. Then he noticed that the tags were aboard the perfect vehicle: a black Jeep . . . .

What gives with the gift shop at the National Archives of the United States of America? . . . .They're selling a Smokey the Bear doll. Problem: it was made in Korea . . . .

Can any school top this? . . . .Julius West Middle School in Rockville collected 3,660 cans of food for the needy over the holidays -- an average of about five cans per student . . . .One student, Sonja Miller, collected 190 cans in just 4 1/2 hours of canvassing her neighborhood . . . .And there are still some people who say that kids are too lazy to help anybody but themselves . . . .

Quiet as it's kept (and it has indeed been quieted by the larger extravaganzas in Baltimore and New York), there is an annual St. Patrick's Day Parade here . . . .This year's installment, the sixth annual, is set for Constitution Avenue on March 16. But the organizers are shorter of floats than they'd like to be . . . .Any business can rent one for $700 . . . .You get a completely decorated float bearing your company's name, a driver, a vehicle to do the pulling, insurance and a good look at Tip O'Neill, this year's grand marshal . . . .Interested folk should call Susan Gundling at 633-7246 or 387-4237, or write to her at 1711 Massachusetts Ave. NW, apartment 508, Washington, D.C., 20036 . . . .

Moral of this story is that nothing gets in the way of a dog whose "Romance" button has just been pushed . . . .There was Mary Landman of Bethesda, driving along always-crowded Rockville Pike. In the back seat was her black German shepherd . . . .Two lanes away, Shep spies a dog in another car. Without wasting a second, he leaps through the open car window, dodges two lanes of moving traffic and starts cantering alongside the car that's carrying the object of his affections . . . .By now, dozens of drivers had slammed on the brakes, Mary among them. She called to Shep, who reluctantly cantered back to his "home" car . . . .Mary would like to thank all the alert motorists who didn't kill the smitten Shep as he pursued his True Love . . . .Best of all, she promises to keep her windows rolled up all the way in the future . . . .

Sad scene in an Adelphi McDonald's . . . .As a reader of mine watches, an elderly man eats half a cheeseburger. He's starting on the other half when his female companion admonishes him to wrap it up and stick it in his pocket . . . ."If you don't save it, you won't have anything for supper," she scolds . . . .My reader wonders why neighbors haven't helped this elderly couple . . . .She also wonders why elderly folks who have to husband half a cheeseburger are too proud to ask for help . . . .Two good worries, I think, with one good solution: a collection can at every McDonald's to buy needy elderly customers extra food . . . .This way, better-off younger folks could avoid the lazy old excuse that they'd love to help the underprivileged, but don't know how . . . .

Finally, from a correspondent in California comes word of the sign on the door of the extrasensory lab at UCLA . . . ."DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK," it says. "WE KNOW YOU'RE THERE." . . . . CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Happily, group donations continue to turn the mailbox into an imitation of the Beltway at rush hour. Some of the more recent "traffic:"

The Bureau of Traffic of the Interstate Commerce Commission ($100).

Employes of the LTS Corp., Advanced Systems Group, in Manassas ($385).

AT&T technicians at the House of Representatives ($55).

The State Regulatory and Legislative Department at Bell Atlantic ($100).

Deanery II of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington ($60).

The Sunday Night Schnapps Club at a certain Ivy League university in a certain town called New Haven, Conn. ($20).

The Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics at Goddard Space Flight Center ($234.50).

The Law Offices of Martin P. Hoffman in Arlington ($3,258, gathered as always at the firm's annual good-time-was-had-by-all Christmas party).

The Foxhall Ladies Fun Bowling League ($20).

The employes of Defense Systems Inc. of McLean ($620).

The Monday Night Ladies Bowling League from St. Charles Bowl in Waldorf ($155).

Carleton East Apartments of Seabrook ($100).

The cafeteria staff at Bowie Senior High School ($100).

Employes of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health ($544).

The staff of the House Appropriations Committee (one of the more generous appropriations of the campaign, $3,065).

Carolers of The Reston Chorale ($50).

Jeanne Hansen's fifth- and sixth-graders at Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax ($160).

The Dumb-Dumb Bridge Club of Springfield ($20).

The Command Post Crew, AT&T Information Systems, the Pentagon ($230).

Employes of the National Coal Association ($145).

Employes of Copy General on 20th Street NW ($100).

"The 12th floor" at Covington & Burling ($105).

The Inspirational Singers of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church ($4).

Customers of The French Baker at International Square ($327.21).

The ASW and Undersea Warfare offices of the Naval Sea Systems Command ($115).

Members of the Science and Technology Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria ($202, the 14th consecutive donation from this group).

Another 14th-year-in-a-row group is the staff at Answering Inc. ($520 this year).

Employes of the Office of Assistant Commissioner (Employee Plans and Exempt Organizations), Internal Revenue Service ($301).

Employes of the Department of Labor ($325 in proceeds from "Putting on the Hits," a show produced under the auspices of the DOL Recreation Association).

And the Population Division, Bureau of the Census ($81).

Thanks very, very much. Any stragglers still out there? If you haven't made a contribution to our campaign, here's all you need to know:

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. The campaign ends on Jan. 24.