We have been down this road before. But to judge from the 150 phone calls and the 39 letters, we need to make a return voyage.
A few days ago, I recounted the plight of Rita Wong, a second-grade teacher at Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Silver Spring.
For the last year, Rita and her students have been trying to collect 1 million pop-tops so the kids can see with their own eyes just how vast a sum 1 million is. However, the Oakland Terrace gang is having trouble amassing enough pop-tops (they're only in the low 300,000s). And they can't locate a socially conscious organization that'll buy or accept the million tabs once they're collected.
No sooner did I ask for suggestions from readers than the dialysis deluge began.
Dozens of you reported that (choose one) a hospital, a clinic, a volunteer fire department, even a collegiate film society will collect and arrange to redeem pop-tops so kidney patients can obtain free life-saving time on a dialysis machine.
One trouble: It ain't so. It never was so. And it probably never will be so.
Jill Fischel, public relations director for the National Kidney Foundation of the National Capital Area, said pop-tops-for-dialysis reports have spread all over the country. However, they are nothing more or less than "false rumors," she said.
Nor would it help if the rumors were true, she pointed out. The federal government pays 80 percent of all dialysis costs through Medicaid. Private or group health insurance almost always picks up the remaining 20 percent.
But because the dialysis rumor has shown no sign of dying, the Kidney Foundation developed a recycling program in partnership with Reynolds Aluminum. Reynolds will accept massive quantities of pop-tops at one of its recycling centers -- but only if a person or group has already collected them. If you're just starting out, or planning to, Reynolds will accept whole empty cans only.
All money from the Reynolds recycling program goes back to the Kidney Foundation. The money is used to make medical ID bracelets for kidney patients, for public education about kidney disease and for research.
Jill was kind enough to call Reynolds and arrange for the company to accept Rita Wong's pop-tops, once the million are in hand. So the immediate question is answered. As for the dialysis rumor, it ranks right up there with alligators in the sewers. People believe it. They go on believing it. Even after I have written this rather lengthy spike through the heart, they will probably still believe it.
In any case, if you have some whole empty cans kicking around, Reynolds will be glad to give you the location of the recycling center nearest you. Their phone number is 1-800-228-2525. There are several centers in the Washington area. If you have pop-tops to add to the Oakland Terrace collection, the school's phone number is 301-929-2161.
Couple of follow-ups to recent columns:
Geico: I french-fried this well-known local insurance company for failing to notice when a customer obviously tried to pay her full auto premium, but inadvertently wrote a check for $10 less than the amount due. Geico slapped a $6 service charge on the $10 balance. Boo, I wrote.
Happily, Joe Thomas, Geico's director of sales and service, agreed with me. He canceled the $6 charge and promised it wouldn't happen again.
Joe also offered a good piece of practical advice, useful at Geico or anywhere else a customer gets tangled up with a customer service agent: Don't get mad. Don't hang up and call Bob Levey. Just ask for the supervisor. These folks often have the experience and authority to make bad situations better.
Stolen Nintendo: At Georgetown University Hospital's Lombardi Cancer Research Center, the word "rotten" was redefined over the summer. Someone lifted a Nintendo set from the pediatric oncology lounge.
Stealing from seriously ill kids. Nice world we've got, huh?
Except that it sometimes is. Many Levey readers saw my report on the theft and donated their own Nintendos to pediatric oncology. To them, big thanks. I'll bet the patients second the motion.
Now we've got a new problem. Many other readers are still calling to say that they also would like to give Nintendos to the oncology lounge. But the sets are no longer needed. Is there some other way these people can help kids with cancer?
There is. A book called "Family Favorites" is being sold through the Lombardi Center. It's a compilation of the recipes of Dale Holtzman Marks, a Washington native and Northern Virginia resident who died of cancer in 1988. Books cost $15 each. All proceeds benefit the Lombardi Center. Further information: Molly Daly, 202-687-7268.
Health Insurance: I reported that the Association of Part-Time Professionals helps arrange coverage for people who work at home. But executive director Maria Laqueur says the association doesn't offer such a service and never has. Apologies to her and the organization.