The East Coast has been gripped by an unseasonable warm spell, caused no doubt by some weird planetary configuration that is making mischief in the stratosphere and provoking the jet stream into deviant behavior. A lot of people have been positively jubilant over this turn of events, and no wonder, since it is certainly a lot more pleasant to plant tulips and daffodils in 65-degree weather than it is to try to bury the bulbs, neatly spaced apart, while bracing your crouched body against the harsh winds of winter.

I have long thought that bulb companies would do a much brisker business in spring bulbs if they could develop tulips you could plant in September rather than later in the fall when it can get miserably cold outside, especially on weekends. But they haven't, so this winter heat wave comes as a particular blessing to procrastinating gardeners. But they're about the only people who are going to benefit from it.

Everyone else is running around acting like it is summer. They are eating picnics in the parks instead of splurging on three-martini lunches, which may be good for their livers, but is very bad for the digestion of high-priced restaurateurs. It's also not good for cabs since people are still saying things like, "Why don't we walk back to the office?"

According to the National Weather Service, this situation is likely to continue: its 90-day forecast calls for an unusually mild winter for all parts east of the Mississippi. I have a friend who is very concerned that this is going to have a bad effect on the birth rate, which ought to go up 9 or 10 months after the onset of winter. If he is right, and the unseasonably warm weather continues through January, for instance, this could delay the birth of thousands of babies past September, which means five years from now we will have a real problem on our hands trying to decide when these youngsters can start school.

Local school board members, who are no doubt enjoying the heat wave, might take note of this now. They are notoriously slow in preparing for demographic changes, but let the record show -- they were forewarned on this one. The draft board might also take note, because there is a real possibility we might not have enough 18-year-olds at some point down the road to hold a war.

Retailers have been pleased as punch over the initial Christmas sales figures that showed that shoppers flocked to the malls on the weekend after Thanksgiving and spent tons of money. But this was merely a conditioned reflex and these same retailers better not start spending that money too fast: I know the last thing I want to do in 65-degree weather is fight crowds in a shopping center. I'd much rather take a five-mile walk up the C&O Canal. No one in the Northeast part of the country is going to go Christmas shopping on a hot day in December.

It is a well-known scientific fact that people respond to the weather in a very glandular fashion, hence such terms as "winter blues," and hence the experiments at the National Institutes of Health with exposing people who suffer from severe depression in the winter to fluorescent lights. The idea is to give them the same dose of light in the winter that they get in the summer, and there is considerable evidence that this works.

I know, in fact, that as soon as daylight-saving time was rescinded I was fully prepared to go into a winter depression to beat all winter depressions -- after all when you're paying college tuition bills and day-care bills for a 5-year-old at the same time, you've every reason to get depressed -- but I've been stopped in mid-depression by this heat spell. How can you get a really good depression under way when the night air is as warm as September's?

The heat wave has played havoc with the children, who feel badly deprived if they don't get a major snow flurry before Halloween. And it's played havoc with parental discipline and authority. Mine have been showing up in the mornings dressed in shorts and short sleeves, only to be told to change into more appropriate clothes. The other day, my son the 9-year-old insisted on wearing a short-sleeve shirt, claiming it was 65 degrees outside at 9 a.m. As everyone knows, that's absolutely impossible. I bundled him off in a warm sweatshirt and insisted his sister wear her winter coat.

Forty-five minutes later, of course, I left to go to work and discovered I had been absolutely wrong and he had been absolutely right.

And that's a turn of events that can be very difficult for a parent to weather.