HERE'S A NOTE from all those who don't have the seniority, wherewithal or office clout to take their vacation in August, to all those who do:
It's time to let you in on a little secret about this place and this time of year. The truth is that things are really pretty nice around here just now. In part this has to do with your being away -- but don't get us wrong, we mean that in the collective sense: congresspersons, college students, partners at law, accounting, consulting and so on, collectively gone. The result of this mass evacuation is that, as we make the turn onto Massachusetts or Connecticut avenue on the way home, instead of getting on the end of a herd of cars extending to the city limits, we roll down a broad, unvexed stretch of open asphalt that would be sufficient to gladden the heart of Congressman Bud Shuster and his pavement-minded colleagues, if they were here.
Moreover, we can enjoy cruising these uncrowded boulevards with the windows, or even the top, down, because, as you may not have been aware, because you're not here, Washington weather can be delightful in the month of August. Yes, it has its hot and humid days, and this year there's drought as well. But there also are beautiful days, much like Southern California's at their best, and hints of coming coolness in the air. The light is different, more gentle and restrained than in hellish July (now there's a month to get out of town), and the evening comes earlier each day, giving relief from even the hot afternoons.
The movies, galleries and restaurants are all still open in August, but not full of people, and the free concerts and many other attractions of the city are more accessible. Steamed crabs -- which used to be a Maryland working-class enthusiasm but have now gotten outrageously expensive enough to be popular inside the Beltway -- are more plentiful than ever. With the traffic lighter -- so many SUVs off at the woods or shore, where they're no doubt both welcome and necessary -- we can even hear the insects at night and the birds in the morning. In fact, although we wouldn't want this to be taken in the wrong way, we've just about decided, after further consideration, that we won't be sending this note after all.