Nancy Schlie kicked off her shoes and threw her head back to catch the sun in Lafayette Park yesterday while she pondered whether her boss would be upset with the long lunch hour she awarded herself in honor of the unseasonably warm temperatures.
Two thousand miles away, in Big Sandy, Mont., Cliff Gulickson insisted in a telephone interview that he was equally content. "It's a real nice day. You ought to see it. It's real calm and still, and there's about four inches of snow," said Gulickson, a farmer whose project for the day was to attach a snow plow to his tractor. "The temperature? Well, let's see . . . . It's about 8 below."
At National Airport, the National Weather Service reported a high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit -- four degrees below the record high set in 1942. But the crowds of people on downtown streets who shucked off their coats, loosened their ties and donned sunglasses seemed pleased enough that the temperature was above 56, the normal high for the date in Washington.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the temperature climbed to 77 degrees, a record high there.
The pleasure will be fleeting. A cold front is expected to bring temperatures today as low as the 30s, with highs in the 50s and a 60 percent chance of rain to the area, a spokesman for the weather service said, and cool and cloudy weather with a chance of rain is expected to remain through Sunday.
Of greater concern is Hurricane Kate, about 250 miles southwest of the Florida panhandle. Although forecasters aren't yet predicting that the storm will have a significant impact, Kate does have the potential to dump large amounts of rain along the Eastern seaboard.
From the standpoint of productivity in the nation's capital, the return to normal temperatures and dreary skies may be a blessing. Yesterday's weather seemed to be the ideal climate for goofing off.
"You know, I was driving to work and every place I was supposed to turn left I wanted to turn right. I just didn't want to come in today," said Jennifer Russell, a financial analyst having lunch at Farragut Square. "It's so beautiful. I'd like to play all day."
"I think they should just give everybody the whole day off," agreed Sarah Lyall, a clerical worker.
But Judy Fried, who with her husband Jerry owns the Ski Haus on Rockville Pike, spoke for the other side: " [The heat] is definitely having an adverse effect. We are seeing a slower pace in the store.
"People need that nip in the air before they think of buying winter clothes."
Even though the store's air conditioning was turned on for the first time in weeks, the heat made it plain unpleasant to put on the insulated ski apparel.
"People walk in and they're sweating. They don't want to try something on that will make them sweat some more," Fried said. "They say, 'I'm hot enough.' "
In fact, having summer in November presented something of a crisis for those attuned to fashion. "It's so hard to dress in this weather," said Terry Barnes, who had accompanied Russell to lunch. "One of the reasons we're here is to check out what other people are wearing."
The problem: wearing summer clothes is gauche this time of year, but fall attire can leave one dripping. The solution, Russell said: dark cottons.
Vexing problems such as these are one reason that Jean Prittinen, a staff assistant in Chisholm, Minn., for Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) was not the slightest bit envious of Washington yesterday.
"Deep down, most people here are proud of the way they can handle the cold," she said in a telephone interview from Chisholm, where the temperature hovered just above zero yesterday. "It can be really beautiful. Besides, you can always put more clothes on, but you can't take them off. Not always, anyway."