Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

‘Tis the season — and the era in history — to pay it forward.

I give loud credit to all who respond to the pandemic by giving to those in need. But there’s one special category: Those who help strangers when opportunity knocks even though they may never be thanked or learn whether their deed succeeded.

My daughter Elizabeth, one of many Arlington Public Schools staffers currently forced to labor solely online, was standing frazzled at the checkout in the Falls Church Trader Joe’s last month. The middle-aged woman beside her suddenly realized that she had piled an array of groceries on the counter but had left her wallet at home. “Sorry,” the employee said sympathetically, “but the store can’t allow buying now and paying later.”

The customer grew flustered. So my daughter offered to cover the purchase. The teary-eyed woman took down her address and, yes, within a week a check arrived inside a Christmas card.

My friend Rich Long recalls his misadventure on the Potomac several years back when he swam in the National Triathlon. During Saturday practice, he lost his all-important swimming goggles. Next day, he showed up with a spare pair. But mounted conspicuously on a pole near the Lincoln Memorial were his favored goggles. “Small thing, but a nice thing,” he says.

College student Maggie Campbell shared the pay-it-forward tendencies of the Lebanese Taverna restaurant on Old Dominion Drive. In May 2017, she had recently returned from a trip to Europe, which is why the crossbody bag she carried to lunch at the taverna contained her passport. But Campbell left the lunch without the bag, stressing out later, worrying she had left her passport God-knows-where. But in August, after her return to Ohio University, her mother got a call from Lebanese Taverna. They had her bag. Though initially reluctant to open it, the restauranteurs mustered the wherewithal to contact the mom.

You never know when you might be the one who needs the good deed. This September, my wife and I bought a new VW Passat. We sold our decade-old Honda Accord to WeBuyAnyCar.com.

The paperwork went swimmingly. Except that two weeks later, we tried to enter the Dulles Toll Road. Oops. We realized we had never removed the EZ-Pass transponder from the old Honda! That omission had passed unnoticed by the broker and dealer who sold our used vehicle.

Quickly, at the Wolf Trap exit, we fed cash to the toll machine and, as I drove, my wife phoned VDOT. She read the congenial clerk our new license plate number. Matched the records. New transponder will be mailed right away. Problem solved.

Or so we thought. In late November we got a notice that our EZ-Pass account had been drained of $210. It needed replenishment. Turns out the initial new owner of our Honda had been toll-booth passing at our expense. Then, due to a license number mix-up, someone else continually traversed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on our dime.

After we phoned VDOT and reconfirmed our number, officials investigated. Last week we received an apologetic email saying we would receive full credit.

The only thing we know about the drivers in this series of mishaps is that none was Paying it Forward.


An elderly gent whose heritage straddled both Arlington and Falls Church left us on Nov. 24. George Robert Crossman, whose farmer-grandfather George Grant Crossman in 1892 built what became the historic farmhouse on Arlington’s North Underwood St., died at 94 in a Falls Church retirement home, his daughters confirmed.

Current owners of the Crossman farmhouse, Buzz McClain and Leslie Aun, told me Crossman paid a surprise visit several years ago. “The house was never that color,” he exclaimed, noting they had replaced the white color scheme with a Victorian green with yellow trim.

Crossman would know. He spent summers in the 1930s and ‘40s working the 60-acre dairy farm, on land that today is Bishop O’Connell High School.