When your good buddy asks you to handle the music at his wedding, and you're a free-lance deejay like Jonathan Crawford of Jessup, you don't just make do. You head for your friendly neighborhood record and tape emporium to buy the best possible brand-new recording of Wagner's famous "Here Comes the Bride" wedding march.

But what Jonathan found instead was a store policy that leaves logic gasping in the dust.

Jonathan located two versions of the wedding march. One was on a $6 tape cassette. The other was on a $12 compact disc. However, the cassette version was sung by a chorus. Jonathan wanted an orchestral rendition.

Did the CD contain what he wanted? Jonathan couldn't tell, because there were no liner notes on the outside of the package. So he asked a clerk to A) let him open the package to have a look, or B) let him buy the CD and return it if it didn't fill the bill.

Without batting an eyelash, the clerk said no to A and no to B too.

Jonathan tried to impress upon the clerk that he might make a $12 sale instead of a $6 sale if he would cooperate. The clerk said sorry, store policy. Jonathan then noted that a dissatisfied customer will go somewhere else (and tell an entire wedding party he has done so). The clerk shrugged. So Jonathan bought the $6 tape, against his wishes.

I've tried for more than a week to contact a store official to discuss this policy. All I've done is make the phone company a little richer. The person I seek is either in conference or out sick. Call-back messages have gone unanswered. So my hands are tied. In fairness, I can't name the store because I haven't obtained its defense.

I did manage to reach officials of several recording companies to ask why they don't print more extensive notes on the outsides of CD packages. The unanimous answer: There isn't enough space. Second question: Why don't stores allow you to listen to a CD and return it if you're displeased? Because no one will buy a used CD, the company spokesmen reply.

Maybe not. But no one buys being treated the way Jonathan was treated, either. Any store policy that results in smaller sales and angry customers is a store policy that ought to get a second look.

In the nearly nine years since we became parents, Jane and I have never had to use the Heimlich maneuver, either on our kids or on each other. And it was a darn good thing. Neither of us knew how to execute it.

Earlier this year, we decided to be good rather than lucky. We took the excellent personal lifesaving course offered by Dana Carr Balchunas of Vienna. As a result, we now know what to do if someone chokes, turns blue, starts going into shock or all of the above. It's a nice, warm security-blanket feeling.

But what if the teacher has to practice what she teaches? It happened to Dana last month. The near-victim was her mother.

Dana and her mother had driven to the Arlington Red Cross to pick up some mannequins Dana uses in her class. Suddenly, right in the CPR classroom, Dana's mother began to choke. She was unable to speak, but she could (and did) point to her throat.

Dana recognized the signs instantly. In her course, she counsels calm at a moment like this. Still, Dana admits that she was "shaking and totally frazzled" because Mom was the victim.

After a few sharp inward-and-upward squeezes around the upper ribs, Mom began to inhale and cough. A couple of minutes later, "she was back to her usual self, chatting happily about an upcoming sale at Neiman-Marcus," Dana writes.

Dana couldn't resist asking her mother how she had remained so calm throughout. "I knew you'd know exactly what to do," Mom replied.

Do you? You should. Whether you pull your mother or a total stranger back to life, Heimlich and CPR are indispensable skills.


Now that the holiday is over, I hope that our annual fund-raising campaign will shift into the upper-gear ranges. Our treasury could use the help. So could our community -- and this is a good way to provide it. The Send a Kid to Camp program has been returning happier kids to the city for more than four decades.

Please take a minute to write a check -- right now, while you're thinking of it. Thanks in advance.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.

In hand as of June 29: $122,790.25.

Our goal: $275,000.