IF AUTUMN is indeed the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, then what we're currently experiencing might well be called, for want of a more poetic term, the season of the screaming meemies. That's the condition that comes on in the late days of a bad winter, around the 57th of February, when you go to sleep on yet another 19-degree night to predictions of moderate snowfall in a day or two and wake up to the reality of a new layer on the ground and lots more falling -- in addition to the two feet still sitting everywhere in crusty lumps and piles waiting for spring.

This is really enough. We are not Fairbanks, and we don't consider this kind of winter part of the deal. All we have ever asked for is something approaching normal for the mid-Atlantic region. In return, we're glad to forgo the caribou, the bracing night air and even the oil revenue. We will not object to a few silent, snowy evenings -- maybe two, with plowing done by 7 a.m. -- but that's it. And we're not doing any more odes to the beauties of the frosty landscape around here. "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" They're right over here, Mr. French poet, and you're welcome to them. Just grab a shovel.