Having lived in the Washington area for 10 years, I now know that its reputation for being a miserable place to be in August is a myth deliberately perpetuated by those who stay here during this month.

Washington is wonderful in August! The weather is cooler (August really is cooler than July), you can get anywhere you want faster because there is so much less traffic, grocery stores and shopping malls are empty -- except for salespeople, who can give you all the time and attention you want -- and your neighbors give you their home-grown tomatoes, which they can't use because they're going out of town.

For those of us who work on Capitol Hill, August is an especially pleasurable time. The flurry of activity that always precedes a congressional recess is over, and there is time to reflect and catch up on postponed projects. The tension that usually pervades the Hill evaporates, dress and demeanor are more casual, and a 40-hour work week becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Obviously, keeping Washington uncrowded and leisurely during August depends on keeping the misery myth alive. So, please, when your friends and colleagues return from their vacations, be sure to tell them how horrible it was here this month.

Melissa Rice Kuckro