The temperature posted on the baking concrete bank near 15th and K streets NW read 64 degrees this week. That's not winter weather, and it has caused a psychologically troubling state of climatic affairs.
Fall is among the most romantic times of the year here. But instead of colored fireplace logs, mittens, minks, snowballs and -- most of all -- that crisp, clean air, we have been sunk in the funk of an urban heat wave.
Having endured the sluggishness of the hottest summer on record, I was looking forward to the briskness of the fall season, the comfort of a turtleneck sweater and the warmth of a cup of coffee.
I hate coffee in the summer, but I need it in the winter. Now, I drink it, but hate it. And I think I'm getting sick.
Please, weather gods -- It's not just me.
I saw a street person, a bag man to be exact, hanging out across from the Department of Commerce building. He appeared to have spent all summer getting ready for winter, for he was dressed from head to toe in an assortment of rags. Yet, he looked as lost as a snowball in Hades, sweating and muttering as he moved aimlessly about.
Surely, he was confused by the sight of so many vacant heating grates.
And then there were his friends, the pigeons. These birds were almost as big as turkeys, full of feathers and fed with enough popcorn to get through the coldest winter. They wobbled like they were about to die of heat prostration.
This kind of madness throws everything out of kilter. It's not that people love winter that much, but they do kind of expect it to arrive on time. You have certain kinds of clothes for winter that just don't work in 60 degrees.
Think about the commuters from the suburbs. You can imagine them waking up somewhere out in Fauquier County, putting on layers of clothing, scraping the frost off the car window and heading for the city thinking things are cool here, too.
You should have seen them walking through Lafayette Square this week as the solar rays made rings around their collars. Some draped their coats over the shoulders, but their tired faces revealed the discomfort that only wet armpits can bring.
And pity the poor clothing store salesmen, who must reduce their prices on winter garb because of the unusally high temperatures. Actually, they are making the problem worse by starting an early summer wear advertising campaign. According to reports, retail analysts said winter merchandise in this area is being cut an average 20 to 50 percent so they can get rid of the stuff. It's as if they have simply written the winter off, and are trying to get others to do the same.
And here I was believing in the second coming of the Ice Age, taking lots of Vitamin C and hoarding firewood. So, what happens: I break out in a sweat.
Only a few people really enjoy this stuff. Over at 14th Street and Thomas Circle, a few lightly dressed street women strutted right along. They are actually getting suntanned.
While walking through downtown, I heard a visitor say, "Isn't this weather great?" to which a companion replied, "It could stay like this all winter." Turns out they were from Miami, that seasonless city where nobody knows the joys of autumn.
So, with winter officially starting tomorrow, the mistletoe is wilting. It's midway through December and there is still the pungent smell of August swamp in the air.
We are having one of the warmest Decembers since the 1930s and chances are slim that it will cool off enough to bring a single snowflake in time for the holidays. On the upside, it means that news of frozen street people will be delayed and heating bills can be expected to remain low for a while.
But nobody is asking for a blizzard, just enough of a cool breeze to get rid of the industrial office fans in buildings that don't have real windows, enough to send that stale swamp smell back into hibernation and chill the air so that it may be filled with hickory smoke and maybe even a roasted chestnut or two in the interest of holiday spirit.
So get your act together, weather gods. After all, there only four days left till Christmas.