Summer winners . . . .
The guy at Fourth Street SW and the Mall who will take your picture beside a life-size cardboard cutout of Bush or Gorbachev. In the wake of the Soviet leader's visit here a few weeks ago, the Gorby cutout was doing six times as much business as the Bush cutout. So the Fourth Street impresario (who doesn't want his name published) offered a deal: half-price for Bush poses, "because I'm an American and others should be proud to pose beside the American president." At last report, Cutout Mikhail was still more popular than Cutout George, but Mr. B. had closed the gap.
The 47 readers who jumped on me for writing "she" earlier this month when I should have written "her." One of the 47 said she hoped I wouldn't "mind the criticism." Mind? I cherish it. Proves that someone beside the squirrels is reading these pearls, and reading them carefully. As for why I fumbled this rather elementary grammatical distinction, I could blame the heat and I could blame my basketball-induced blisters. Let me instead blame she (not her) who deserves it: Tiger Lily, our cat. She walked across my chest the night before I mistyped -- not once, but thrice, at 90-minute intervals. When sleep vanishes, grammar does too.
The 800 block of 14th Street NW. A couple of years ago, this was Sin City. You could see X-rated movies, buy X-rated magazines, watch X-rated floor shows, obtain an X-rated "massage." Today, all you can see are two perfectly respectable high-rise office buildings, a couple of smaller buildings (both of whose tenants are rated G) and a vacant lot where many of the sexually oriented businesses once stood. Who says a downtown Washington block is once-sleazy, always-sleazy?
Walter Mallorey, who runs an office supply business in Northeast. A woman he didn't know, Ruth M. Compton of Northwest, called his office several times this month, apparently at random, to see if she could get some financial help. Seems Ruth lives in an apartment building with several fellow senior citizens. If one of them is strapped, another will make the strap-ee a loan against his Social Security check. Ruth had advanced $245 to a man in her building. He hadn't repaid it. Other checks of Ruth's were bouncing, and she said she was about to come up short on the rent. So, even though he had never met Ruth, Walter Mallorey sent her a check for $245, mostly because she reminded him of an aunt of his who used to live on Rhode Island Avenue and who would make similar calls to strangers. Did Walter demand his money back? "She wants to repay it, but I won't let her," he told me. Send this man a halo. Check that. Send him 10.
The woman who runs the kiddie spinner ride at Hershey Park, the popular amusement park in central Pennsylvania where the Leveys went two Sundays ago. Alexander Levey, age 3, looked delighted as the spinner ride started. But when the first burst of centrifugal force hit, he started screaming with fear. The ride-runner (alas, I neglected to read her badge) stopped the ride, walked over to Allie's car, lifted him out, hugged him, carried him to Dad while wiping the tears from his eyes and apologized to both of us. I've never seen an attendant at any other amusement park do any of those things, let alone all of them.
One-liner from Betsy Godley: God, grant me patience -- and grant it to me now!
John Carr, a bill collector from Northwest and a heck of a good samaritan. There was John, at Ninth and E streets SE, one recent Saturday morning. There, sprawled on the sidewalk, where she had tripped and fallen, was Margaret Hollister, who lives nearby. "I was a medic in the Army," John told me, "so I knew she was seriously hurt. From looking at her arm, it looked totally twisted, almost 180 degrees. I asked if there was anything I could do." Sprawled beside Margaret was her cello (she had been on her way to a lesson). Margaret was too badly injured to get the instrument home. But she decided to trust this total stranger to do it. She handed him her house keys and gave him directions. He stowed the cello, as asked. Then he returned to the scene and gave Margaret $10 of his own money to take a cab to Sibley Memorial Hospital (where she preferred to seek treatment). The broken elbow turned out to need two operations, and Margaret's cello-playing may be behind her. But the memory of John Carr's help isn't. "I really lucked out with this incredible guy," she said. "She called to thank me, and that was the best part," replied John.
A woman who did what we all wish we had the nerve to do. Joy Abell of Brentwood had a problem with her cable TV service. She called the company to ask a question. She was greeted with one of those recorded barrages that tell you to push 1 for this, 2 for that. After listening for three minutes (and not hearing an option that sounded helpful), Joy punched the one choice that connected her with a real human. She apologized for deliberately reaching the wrong extension. But she said she wanted help from a person and not a machine and wasn't going to hang up until she got it. She got it.