Offices are half empty, government buildings echo with the solitary footsteps of security guards and rush hour traffic is down to a trickle.
Is this the dullest week in Washington?
"Yes, this may be," said Tom Richichi law clerk for D.C. District Court Judge John Sirica. "Unofficially, I would say it's very dull."
The court is in recess until next Monday. In fact, the whole city has been put on hold until next Monday.
Tuesday: arrive late, have long lunch and leave early. Wednesday: skip out after lunch and buy champagne. Thursday: nurse hangover and watch football. Friday: take annual leave.
On the boredom barometer, the week after Christmas is rivaled only by the last week of August.
"It's nowhere near as dull as the last week in August," one Washington lawyer said yesterday.
Not so, said Greg Hughes, deputy clerk of the U.S. District Court. "Three people in the office are asleep right now," he said.
"This has to be the dullest week," said George Berklacy, spokesman for National Capital Parks. "When I came in this morning and found out our White House liason was named acting director, I knew it was the dullest week."
"Because he's dull," Berklacy said.
At the City of Duluth's Washington office, chosen for its presumed expertise on the subject, all was dullsville. "I'd say it's worse than the last week of August," said receptionist Elizabeth Carroll, a 20-year-old George Washington University student who was hitting the school books yesterday in between calls. "A lot of people are out of town."
At the National Press Building, foreign correspondents were yawning into their teletype machines.
"Apart from the hostages and Carter breaking his collarbone," said London Daily Telegraph bureau chief Richard Beeston, "not much is happening."
The last week of August, he said, "is the silly season isn't it? With people frying eggs on the pavement. This week, I suppose, is the other low point."
At the Library of Congress, one staffer measured the dull-o-meter at a perfect score: "Zero. It's been really dead. There was a fire on Pennsylvania Avenue but it didn't affect us. We didn't even have a fire drill, which would have been something to do."
How dull is it on Capitol Hill?
"Real dull," said Rick Shapiro, staff assistant to Rep. G. William Whitehurst (R-Va.) "So dull we're watching Bonzo movies," he said with a laugh.
Capitol Hill staffers, he said, were cleaning out files, moving offices, waiting for the inauguration. "I heard one office staff was watching soap operas," he said.
It was so dull Mayor Marion Barry went to Baltimore, Vice President Walter Mondale went skiing in Vail and President Carter stayed at Camp David with his broken collarbone.
"It's pretty dull," said Diana Damewood, manager of Dominique's Restaurant. "First of all, there aren't any people to make it interesting. Also, there's a lot of lame duck around."
Damewood said this week is definitely the dullest. "You're subject to bad weather and people getting sick, and a lot of people take vacation. Our lunch was pretty good today, though. We had the Sweetbriar Alumni Club, which perked things up a bit."
But it's dull, she said, so dull that the restaurant's owner went hunting.
So did a lot of doctors, lawyers, journalists and business executives, leaving skeleton secretarial crews to fend for themselves.
"What's happening?," said one secretary, stifling a yawn. "Nothing. I'm the only one here."
The holiday dulls may be good for our mental health, according to one Washington psychiatrist.
"This is a good week for all of us," said Dr. John J. McGrath, former president of the Washington Psychiatric Society. "Some people like it. They get to slow down, catch up on work, take a few days of leave and be with their families."
But he also said it can be a stressful time for those who cannot enjoy the lull, whose problems may become exaggerated if work is not occupying their time. "There's a great deal of external pressure on themselves to enjoy themselves," he said. This week, he said, could add to the burden.
"We're actually getting a lot done," said Sandra Alley of National Capital Parks. Yesterday, she said, would take only a 7 or 8 on the dull-o-meter, but working on Wednesday, New Year's Eve, "is the pits."
"Nothing's happening," moaned Allan Jirikowic, manager of D.C. Space, a punk rock bar and restaurant. "People are sort of walking into walls. After Christmas, the big bubble popped. Now we're limping along."
This week really isn't that different, he said, adding: "Washington is always dull."