I admit it: I am scatterbrained. I'm forgetful when it comes to events and information that affect me personally, although I have the odd ability to remember facts and trivia. It is a source of frustration and amusement to others that I can remember details about the Battle of Actium, but can also lose my car for several days because I forgot where I had it parked.

Now things have gone from comical to critical. I had been planning to propose to my girlfriend of three years, and I have lost the engagement ring. I bought the stone months ago. It's a rare green sapphire that she helped select. I had it set without her knowledge a few weeks later. When the ring was completed, I hid it in a small space behind a drawer in my desk.

This month I planned to pop the question. But today, when I looked behind the drawer, the ring was gone. The worst part is I don't know if I moved it myself. Did I hide it somewhere else because I was afraid she might discover it? Or did I take it out to look at it and forgot where I set it down?

My forgetfulness has caused friction between us before. I want to propose, but I don't want our engagement to be forever associated with another irresponsible mistake on my part. What should I do?

- Forgetful in Chicago

DEAR FORGETFUL: You have several options. The first is to fess up and tell your girlfriend what happened. If she's going to accept you for better or for worse, she deserves to know what she's getting into. If she loves you, she'll forgive you.

The second is to go through your office with a fine-tooth comb and get it organized. This will increase your odds of finding the ring. The third is to start looking for another rare green sapphire.

Last, but not least, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a complete physical and neurological checkup on the chance there is a medical reason for your forgetfulness.

DEAR ABBY: A friend of ours fell from a ladder last year and broke his back. To help the family during his recuperation, I offered to wash and dry several weeks' worth of their laundry at a local Laundromat.

After washing several loads, I ran out of quarters to feed the dryers. Because I wasn't comfortable leaving their laundry unattended, I frantically called my husband and begged him to pick up more quarters from the bank and bring them to me.

While I was talking to my husband, a woman in the Laundromat overheard the conversation and handed me an almost full roll of quarters. I offered to write her a check, but she told me, "Don't worry about it." I was floored by her generosity and thanked her profusely. With those extra quarters I was able to finish drying all the laundry.

When I delivered it later that afternoon, I told our friend and his wife about the Good Samaritan. They, too, were touched by the woman's act of kindness.

I would like to thank her publicly and let her know her generosity was deeply appreciated, not only by me but also the family she ultimately helped.

- Cathy in State College, Pa.

DEAR CATHY: What goes around, comes around. The kindness you bestowed when your friend was in need invited more acts of goodwill - and that's as it should be. Thank you for an upper of a letter.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)