Summeruminations . . .
The next jillionaire will be the person who invents non-gooey sunscreen. You wonder why so many children are sporting such deep late-summer sunburns? They won't use over-the-counter blocking creams because they drip and stain clothes. Can't science give us a spray, like that stuff I used when I was a young camper to ward off bugs?
This is the last week of the year when D.C. men will feel comfortable about going to work without ties. Labor Day seems to serve as a prod -- back to dressing like adults, guys. But if casual business attire is about the weather, consider this: Washington's average high temperatures during the first two weeks of September are within one degree of the highs during the last two weeks of August. Sweat will last until the third week of the football season. Tielessness could, too.
It's no secret that time-pressed Washingtonians don't take care of their cars. But we apparently abandon our duties more shamefully during the summer. An employee of a Chevy Chase gas station tells me he hasn't changed the oil on a car all summer at the suggested interval of 3,000 miles. "I even had one in here with 50,000 miles on it and the owner said he had never had the oil changed," my guy said. In case it isn't obvious, dear friends, summer demands more attention to car fluids, not less. Or would you prefer vapor lock on the Beltway some 101-degree afternoon?
Kids are often shuttlecocks in battles between divorced parents, but never more than during the summer travel season. In late July, as I waited to board a flight at Los Angeles International Airport, the gate agent announced that unaccompanied children would board first. About 15 came forward. In every case, only one parent said goodbye. One father said to one 6-year-old, "You be sure to give Mommy my best regards." The little girl nodded gravely. It doesn't get sadder.
A glitch in logic the size of the Grand Canyon: Repair personnel cannot refill local home air conditioners with Freon more than once, by law. But local auto repair establishments can fill car air conditioners with Freon as often as necessary.
Most local colleges and universities are already back in session, which has always seemed barbaric to this fossil. When I was young, kiddies, we didn't go back to the books (or whatever college life entails) until early October. Having all of September to pursue wine, women and song was a birthright. So why have institutions of higher learning decided to reconvene so soon? Because public schools do. "Most of our employees are parents, and they want to sync up with their children's schedules as much as possible," said a spokesman for a local university who asked for anonymity. But why do colleges let out in early May, if public schools continue well into June? "No answer for that one," the spokesman said.
You still buy that old one about how Washington takes the month of August off? A spy at the Office of Personnel Management says the most popular week for vacation in the federal service is the last one of the year, because of Christmas. Thanksgiving week ranks second, Easter week third. Any week of summer is about as popular for vacations as any other, my spy says.
"If you print my name, I'll become a murderer instead of a Fairfax County schoolteacher," said a caller. I agreed that her secret was safe with me. Here it is: Teachers are cooling on the age-old, first-day-of-school English assignment, headlined "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." "The problem is that so many kids don't do anything with their summers," the teacher told me. "We were getting one-paragraph papers that said, `I spent my summer vacation hanging out at Fair Oaks Mall.' You can't make an exciting lesson out of an unexcited life."
I'm afraid the mugginess is getting to the gang at WBIG-FM, the oldies radio station. They've just issued their list of the top 500 oldies of all time. To me, there are only two bygone songs that guarantee snapping fingers: "Satisfaction," by the Rolling Stones, and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," by Gladys Knight and the Pips. WBIG has those classics at No. 23 and No. 451, respectively. There's only one Elvis song (and no Chuck Berry) in the top 10. To my pal Tom Kelly, who sent me the list: Thanks, but raspberries to your list-compilers.
Bob Moss, of Bethesda, says he has a new reason to pray for cooler weather. "I'm a big bicycling fan," Bob told me, "and I love the Capital Crescent Trail [it runs from Bethesda to Georgetown, through glorious park scenery]." Until this summer, Bob looked forward to rolling out of the sack at 5:30 a.m. and doing a quick 15 miles. "No one was out there," he said. "It was quiet and peaceful." But during summer '99, "the trail has been mobbed at that hour, because it's the only time of day it's ever cool." Hurry, November!
A Levey regular who runs a 7-Eleven in Alexandria says he has done the impossible. He has lowered his prices on bottled water. "I've never sold so much of it as I have this summer," the businessman said. "I thought I should offer a favor to my customers." He asks that I not reveal the location of his store, for fear that he'll be besieged. The favor-giver cut the price of two-liter bottles by a dime, of smaller sizes by a nickel. Most retailers would have done the opposite. Nice going!