This is the time of year when people begin to rhapsodize and languish. They describe the weather as "glorious" and "wonderful." They gaze out the window and sigh. They doodle at their desks, plotting escape.

It's springtime in the office.

What's a worker to do when the sky is blue, the breeze is soft and fresh, the temperature reaches an afternoon high of 75 -- and the work lies indoors?

"The first thing we did was plan a nice, long, leisurely lunch outside," said Diane Cabe, who works for Fairfax City.

"If I had my way," said Scott McNichol, an employe of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, "I'd take a beach chair to the roof and sit there the rest of the afternoon."

Unfortunately, that's one of the most frustrating aspects of spring fever, which apparently struck the metropolitan area in full force yesterday: Few people get to have their way. The outdoors may beckon, but duty calls.

The struggle was obvious. Lunchtime diners dawdled at the outdoor tables at the Trio and Childe Harold and Kramer Books & Afterwords in the Dupont Circle area.

"It was jammin' out there today," said Roland Desonier of Childe Harold. "Funny how everybody seemed to be moving real slow, like they were looking for an excuse to hang around, like they thought maybe they were coming down with the Irish flu or the Russian flu or the flu du jour and maybe they wouldn't be able to make it back to work."

The brisk walk was gone; yesterday, people sauntered. And the second most oft-repeated phrase of the day -- after agreement on the "glorious weather" -- was a wistful, "I wish I didn't have to go back. . . . "

"The first couple of nice spring days are the hardest," said Bruce Baldwin, a psychologist from Wilmington, N.C., who has studied the effects of the weather and the seasons on behavior.

"Spring fever is a good feeling after being cooped up all winter," Baldwin said yesterday. "It's a very sensory-oriented thing -- the smells, the warmth of the sun -- that is usually combined with a sense of energy, but definitely not toward work. You see the green grass and the tulips and all you want to do is play. I know all I want to do is play."

Eventually, the newness wears off and routine returns, Baldwin said. Today's cooler temperatures and 30 percent chance of showers may also help raise concentration levels.

But yesterday, the warmest March 26 recorded here, was another story.

In Upper Marlboro, the picnickers returned to Schoolhouse Pond, the tree-lined expanse of water across from the Prince George's County administration building. As their lunch hour drew to a close, friends Sherry Chapple, Susan Tice and Alan Hirsch walked ever so slowly in the direction of their offices.

"It wasn't so bad being inside this morning," said Tice, who works for a law firm. "But now I can see how hard it's going to be to go back in."

"I have a window in my office that opens," said Hirsch, a landscape architect, trying to make the best of things.

At a picnic table, three county employes, finishing up their lunch, were discussing whether or not it was time to go back inside. "Not till the church bell rings at 1 o'clock," Marie Bolden said firmly, indicating a nearby Roman Catholic church that tolls the hour.

The women sat contentedly, sipping soft drinks. The breeze billowed around them. Other workers strolled by, equally unhurried. A man lowered a fishing pole into the dark, cold pond.

A minute passed, two minutes passed, and then the church bell sounded. The women looked at each other. Then slowly, dutifully, they gathered up their sandwich wrappers and potato chip bags and trudged across the street to the county building.