"If I wanted to live in Washington," snarled a resident of Los Angeles last week, "I would."

Normally, weather doesn't inspire conversation in Los Angeles, since there isn't any--weather, that is.

No more.

Weather now is a main topic of conversation here because gone are clear skies (give or take a little smog), and gone is the dry, moderate heat.

Here is the weather forecast that ran in Sunday's Los Angeles Times:

"Continued hot and humid . . . . Highs near 100, lows upper 70s." The forecast noted that both the record high and the record low for Aug. 13 were set in 1983: 98 and 54 degrees.

The forecast was wrong, however. It left out the part about the rain. It left out the thunderstorms. And it left out the part about all the cranky people doing things they normally wouldn't do.

People who usually spend their weekends at the beach or by a pool are taking refuge in air conditioned movie theaters and ice cream parlors. Women who think cellulite is a fatal disease are slurping down chocolate milkshakes as fast as Baskin-Robbins can turn them out.

And everyone is making churlish statements about places like Washington. Of course, not everyone picks on Washington, probably because not everyone has been in Washington in the summer. At a party over the weekend, two refugees from New Jersey moaned that they didn't see why they bothered to move to California. One of them lay prostrate on the porch as he moaned.

The only people more miserable than those who escaped their humid eastern roots for the pleasures of California are native Californians. They are the really miserable ones. They never worried about things like air conditioning, because they knew they'd never need it.

At least two of them (three, if I count myself) independently came to this discovery: without air conditioning, the only way to get to sleep at night is to get into the shower, blast the cold water, then try to make it back to bed before the water evaporates. It's primitive, but effective--and probably safer than sleeping on a raft in the pool.

The natives have another worry: the world as they know it has gone mad. They know this because they know that the meteorologists are wrong.

The meteorologists have lots of theories. They say that this current weather is due to a hurricane off Mexico. They talk about El Nino, which is supposed to be affecting weather all over the world. But mostly, they say that we simply had 20 or 30 years of unseasonably mild weather, and now that's over.

Well, the natives know they're wrong. Contrary to myth, there are natives here. There are even natives whose parents are natives, and so on: multi-generational Californians. And they, and their parents, know that this talk of unseasonable mildness is just so much hogwash.

There is a suspicion among natives that the meteorologists fell for the no-natives myth. They were as stymied as everyone else about what's happening to California's weather, so they all got together and decided, "Hey! There are no native Californians. Let's just tell 'em this is the way it's supposed to be. No one's been there long enough to remember any different." But there are natives, and they're restless. After all, if they wanted to live in Washington, they would.