THERE IS a certain somber pride in knowing that Washington was not merely uncomfortably warm yesterday. It was spectacularly hot, perilously hot, fiercely hot. It was historically hot. Intolerable afternoon that it was, there's a deep and abiding satisfaction in knowing that, for the date, it constituted, as the sports pages put it, the all-time record.

There may be places that claim to have been hotter, but there is none that can have been as muggy and oppressive. It was a true community event. Everybody participated.

A weather crisis has arrived, and everyone needs a survival strategy. These temperatures are a threat to public health.Seek air-conditioning. Avoid solar radiation by staying on the shady side of the street. Avoid dehydration by drinking more water than usual. Above all, avoid thinking about all the subjects that tend to overheat the brain -- international economics, the family checkbook and whether the car needs a new transmission.

Sit still and think about music. As the temperature passes 90 degrees, it is recommended to switch from Bach to Mozart. Generally speaking, the second half of the 18th century is a good period in which to immerse oneself during very hot weather. It is true that the national productivity index may sink a little if everyone does it, but that is normal cyclical movement and will recover after Labor Day.

There are still great achievements to be scored by this heat wave. It's only the middle of July. Because of the siege of unseasonably hot weather in May, there's now a promising chance of setting an all-time record for the number of days, in one year, when the temperature has gone over 90 degrees. One record day is a notable showing. But why not go for a record season? With a little luck, and a steady wind from the southwest, this season may yet turn into the most miserable, dangerous, memorably awful summer since George Washington first hung up a thermometer.