The front desk crew at Hobbit's Glen Golf Course has spent much of this month catching up on television soap operas. Lifeguards at Dasher Green neighborhood pool have gotten unexpected days off. And area bookstores say browsers and buyers have been crowding their aisles.

Those are a few of the manifestations of the decidely unsummer-like weather the area experienced for a sizable part of this month. As the month neared its end, about six inches of rain had fallen in August, substantially more than the average monthly rainfall of 4.62 inches. Although sunnier skies returned early this week, the cool, wet weather brought sweaters out of the closet and put a damper -- temporarily, at least -- on traditional summer pastimes ranging from ice-cream eating to day camp, local merchants say.

At the Scoop DuJour ice-cream parlor on Main Street in Ellicott City, the few customers during the recent cool snap ordered less ice cream, instead favoring nachos, cookies and other baked goods, said store clerk John Soulakis.

Friday, the single lifeguard on duty at Dasher Green pool in Columbia watched a handful of swimmers under gray skies. "Usually, it's packed," pool manager Todd Rogers said. The pool is one of two in Columbia that remain open even when the weather is fairly bad.

Guards at the large pool have found time in recent weeks to practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation and rescue skills and do maintenance work on the pool.

Early last week, with cold rain falling, Hobbit's Glen Golf Course in Columbia was getting 10 or 15 golfers a day, compared with the 200 or so who flock to the course -- Columbia's only one -- on a nice day. That left the course's four golf pros and three front desk attendants with time on their hands.

"We have a TV. And we sit and watch soap operas all day," desk attendant Caryl Collier said with a laugh. "We clean the pro shop and catch up on paperwork."

A glimmer of sunlight Friday encouraged some golfers to return to the links. "We're happy, because we were bored," Collier said.

The staff at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia say they're prepared for rain and cold during concerts. "We poncho-ize immediately," said Amanda Julian, director of advertising and promotions. In a phenomenon that might be called the Woodstock Syndrome, the rain and wind even seem to charge up concert-goers in the pavilion's outdoor lawn seats, Julian said.

"They take it into their hands to have a good time, regardless," she said. "During the Jimmy Buffet concert, when it rained, people started to clap and cheer."

And, for some business owners, inclement weather proves to be a boon. Swimmers are crowding the lap lanes at the Columbia Swim Center, which features a large indoor pool. "It's too cold to swim outside; the weather's too ugly," desk attendant Vicki Dexter said.

"It's definitely busier," Bryce Dakins, assistant manager of Waldenbooks in Columbia Mall, said.

"Customers don't want to be outside . . . and they don't want to be stuck inside their homes," he said.

"It's a typical occurrence. Except in winter, when it snows real hard," he added.