The trouble with writing a column a few days in advance is that you never know what might happen the day the column runs. For example, Dennis could have reformed as a hurricane and be crushing us right now.

By midweek, some computer models forecasted Dennis finally drifting out to sea after it had hung around forever, pointlessly annoying the hell out of people, like the Dan Quayle campaign. Some models had Dennis regathering strength in the Atlantic Ocean, then abruptly turning west and landing on Washington like Monica Lewinsky in a 4-by-4.

So it could be that Dennis is inundating the mid-Atlantic right now, and you are reading this under five feet of water while breathing through a snorkel. But even then, the first thing officials will say on TV tonight and in tomorrow's paper is: "Okay, you can wash your car now--once the upholstery dries out--but this wasn't nearly enough rain to end the drought."

Do you remember a week or so ago when it rained for three straight days?

It poured down in buckets. I don't wanna say there was a lot of water in my basement, but I saw Leonardo DiCaprio down there. Bada-boom.

Sure enough, every night on TV some weather poodle said gravely, "We got some rain today, but it had no effect on the drought."

A further explanation was: "This kind of rain is normal for this season, so it doesn't do anything to replenish the water table. It just keeps us even."

Keeps us even? What, this season is normally underwater? I normally grow fish gills around Labor Day?

If this is the worst drought of all time, how come I've got enough mushrooms on my front lawn to make veal marsala for everybody in Bolivia?

There's some obvious disconnect here that Maryland's governor, Parris N. "Duh" Glendening, is just figuring out. Late in the week, he canceled mandatory water restrictions, but still refused to lift the drought emergency. He urged people to conserve voluntarily.

Right. We've seen how well that works in Virginia and the District. People run around flushing their toilets every five minutes just for the fun of it.

Not that I do that. I stopped watering my lawn long before people called for water restrictions. Actually, I stopped watering my lawn circa 1993 when my dog bit through my garden hose, and I found to my amazement that even when grass dies, it comes back the next year--much like Lamar Alexander in the primaries.

Of course, my conservation was strictly voluntary, since I am a resident of the District of Columbia, where the motto is: "Get a Load of Those Dopes in Bethesda Saving Water." (Our official seal has a smiling resident topping off his pool, saying, "What, me worry?") Even when it hadn't rained for weeks on end, the position of Mayor Anthony "Niagara Falls" Williams was, "It's not a drought until I see camels tethered to parking meters on K Street."

I live three blocks from the Maryland line. Throughout the summer, a man around the corner from me watered his lawn all night, every night without regard for the community of man. His lawn is thick and brilliantly green. It looks like the 16th green at Augusta. People with Maryland plates drove by and screamed obscenities at the house.He couldn't hear them, though. He had the water turned up to the "fire hose" setting in his high-volume shower.

Toward the end of the mandatory restrictions, I got into the spirit of things. I'd drive up to just this side of the Maryland line every evening and ostentatiously wash my car. I was thinking of opening the hydrants and inviting the Chevy Chase Junior League to a "pool party."

But don't be fooled by the relaxed restrictions, or the water puddling up to your knees in the back yard. The experts have an explanation for why all that rain doesn't dent the drought:

"The ground can't hold the rain. It all ran off into the bay."

So? If it ran off into the bay, wouldn't it run off into the rivers and the reservoirs as well? Isn't that the point--to get more water in the spots where water is collected?

It always seemed to me that the reason the Mojave was a desert was because it didn't rain in the Mojave--not because all the rain in the Mojave ran off into Barbra Streisand's pool in Malibu.

The other day I read a story that said we needed 20 inches of rain to end the drought.

Twenty inches?

If we need 20 inches of rain, then we don't have a drought, we've got a biblical prophecy. Next stop on the Red Line: Bedouin Junction.

It would take 40 days of rain to get 20 inches. Forty days. Does that ring a bell?

I've seen mopes on TV say casually, "We need a hurricane to get us out of the drought."

We need a hurricane, huh?

So, when you picked up your paper today, was it floating?