Don't get mad, get even, the smart money advises us. Usually that's easier said than done. But Edward Dow of Arlington got even in a big way last month -- and all it took was a little imagination.

The centerpiece of the tale is a 1967 Volkswagen convertible, blue with a white top. Edward bought the car last month. To say that the purchase pleased him would be like saying that a Redskins fan is pleased by beating Dallas. "I was in love with the car," Edward says, simply.

Just a few days after he bought it, Edward went to the Montgomery Ward's on Rte. 50 in Arlington to buy a few things. When he returned to the parking lot, he discovered that the car had been stolen.

Edward made a police report and notified his insurance company and did all the things you're supposed to do.

Then he did what you aren't supposed to do.

He figured a way to slick the thief into revealing who he was.

The VW was missing a front fender. So Edward placed a bogus classified ad in a local shoppers' magazine.


Sure enough, Edward got a call a couple of weeks later. A young man came to visit him. They talked price. They agreed on price. But the stolen car was nowhere in view.

Trying to flush out his quarry, Edward asked where the car was. "At my brother's," the young fender-seeker said. Then Edward asked the other key question: What's your name? The young man mumbled something half-intelligible, gave Edward his brother's phone number, said he'd be in touch and left.

What Edward needed was the brother's address, so he could drop by and see if the stolen car was there. But the half-intelligible name wasn't in the phone book. Edward was stalled.

Then he got unstalled -- with more cleverness.

Edward decided to call the business office at the phone company and pretend to be the thief's brother.

"The brother" asked if he had paid his bill that month. The service representative checked, and came back to say no, he hadn't.

Continuing his bluff, "the brother" said there must be some mistake -- and maybe the mistake was the address the phone company had on its records. What address was she showing on her computer?

The service rep recited the address, just like that.

In a matter of seconds, Edward was on his way to the real brother's house. He peeked inside the garage. Parked there was a 1967 Volkswagen convertible, blue with a white top.

The Fairfax County police took over from there. As it turned out, they could charge the young man with only petty larceny, which is a misdemeanor, because the car was worth less than $100. But the young man is scheduled to go to trial in December.

As for Edward Dow, he may have stopped smiling a satisfied smile by now. But if he hasn't, he's entitled. Has slick ever been slicker?

A Halloween story with a difference, from Martin Buxbaum of Bethesda:

"There are many little old ladies in our neighborhood -- most living alone.

"On Halloween, two young ladies, Rosemary Redding and Kate Stubbs, dressed as rag dolls, filled small baskets with candies and went door to door to visit these little old ladies.

"At each door, they happily called out, 'Treat or Trick!' They then gave candy! They also spent a little time at each house and came back home saying they had a wonderful time.

"How do I know all this?

"The two dolls are my daughters."

A reader bemoans the untimely disappearance of the apostrophe.

Eugene T. Lyons of College Park says the "poss" (as we abbreviation-crazy newspaper folk call it) has vanished from the signs on restroom doors.

Eugene says he routinely sees "MENS." And "LADIES." He says he can't remember the last time he saw "MEN'S" or "LADIES'."

He adds that he hadn't noticed this error in and around Washington as often as he had outside Washington. He figured this reflected the sophistication of the D.C. area.

But then Eugene chanced into the glitzy new Hecht's store at Wheaton Plaza, and you guessed it:

A "MENS" right beside a "LADIES."

"Do you think there are too many MBAs in management to catch this simple grammatical error," Eugene wonders, "or have we simply let proper usage deteriorate?"

I'd say it's a little bit of both, Eugene. I'd also say that any manager reading this j'u's't m'i'g'h't t'a'k'e t'h'e h'i'n't.