Life on the streets of Alexandria:

* The man was stopped for a red light at Glebe Road and Mount Vernon Avenue at about 10 p.m. on Oct. 29. Suddenly, a second man walked up to the driver's side window and said: "Police, let me see your driver's license."

The "officer" was dressed in a casual jacket and designer jeans -- hardly coplike. But he asked for the license "as if he'd done it 5,000 times before," the driver told me. So the driver removed his wallet from his jacket and began hunting.

As he did so, the "officer" reached through the window and grabbed the wallet. "Then he loped off slowly. He didn't even run away. He just kept walking slowly away," the driver said.

The driver was lucky.Within hours, a woman found all his credit cards and IDs, and returned them. All the man lost was a wallet and $40 in cash.

If you think this is an isolated incident, better think again. Alexandria police say the same scam has been pulled by the same guy three times in the last two weeks at red lights along Mount Vernon Avenue. If it happens to you, how about asking to see a badge before you plop your wallet in your lap beside an open window and start license-fishing?

* Less than 24 hours later, Robyn Kroll of Arlington was finishing her grocery shopping at the Safe-way store at 3526 King Street. She wheeled her jam-packed cart out to the loading area in front of the store, and planned to leave it there while she went to get her car.

But just seconds after she let go of the handle, a man ran past and grabbed two sacks of groceries right out of the cart. "And wouldn't you know it?" says Robyn. "They were the bags with the chicken and the steaks, not the ones with the detergent and the toilet paper."

A Safeway employe on duty at the loading area chased the thief. But this heister was determined not to be caught. At a dead run, he kept reaching into the bag he'd just stolen and throwing groceries at the pursuing clerk.

"He started with the pistchio nuts," reports Robyn. By the time he'd hurled a couple of chickens and some cans -- and scored a couple of direct hits -- the clerk gave up.

But the manager made amends in a big way. When Robyn reported the theft to him, he let her replace the $30 worth of groceries that had been stolen -- for nothing. Isn't that terrific?

Less terrific: the security around grocery store loading areas. It's amazing that hit-and-run thefts don't happen three times an hour. Why don't the major grocery chains double or triple their staffs at these theft-inviting locations?Not every manager will be as kind-hearted as the one on King Street.