August in the Washington, DC area is commonly hot and humid (you know, temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit and 120 percent humidity), the sort of weather that takes your breath away as you step outside. When I moved to the DC area in 1993 for grad school I loathed August with the oppressive heat and afternoon thunderstorms that become mini monsoons.
Some 25 years later, I’ve come to peace with August. I oddly enjoy the clinging heat. August drives nearly everyone who lives in the DC area out. They flee to the shore, see relatives in slightly cooler climes, travel to far off lands, or become stationary moving only to their front porch and not much farther. This change in population density and movement means treks in morning commutes can become magical as you make the 6.3 mile drive in 20 minutes by making every traffic light and for some stretches you are the only vehicle you see moving on the street.
Sure there are tourists who flock to tourist destinations and dawdle looking at the sights or stop with no warning to look at a map. Or, they just stand and have a conversation that consumes the full width of a sidewalk trying to figure out where Billy went (or some other child they didn’t pay attention to that has wandered off) or what type of food or museum will be next, which nobody agrees with. These tourist’s stalemate conversations are mini examples of what happens in Congress, but since Congress is out of session these micro moments are street-side examples of in-action in action of today’s Congress while Congress members are back in their districts, which these people left so to see Washington, DC and their Congress member in in-action.
What is most magical about August is running errands at your pace and leisurely shopping trips. The packed Little Red Hen on Saturday morning has you as the only person in line (okay, there is no line and you can just walk up to the counter and order, but not mentioning the word “line” could leave people confused, as it apparently is part of the “experience”). You can quickly grab a leisurely coffee and walk a few doors up to Politics & Prose to look around as the only customer walking around looking at the what is on offer.
The drive home is at a leisurely pace (this needs to be self-enforced as the usual traffic isn’t there, which usually helps pace you at a non-speed camera inducing speed) is enjoyable. There aren’t people driving with their head in the backseat trying to calm children, or trying to incite them to over achieve at their soccer practice they are running late to.
The August abandonment of the DC burbs means not going away is sublimely enjoyable. But, keep in mind it is only three to four weeks of this tranquility before the 20 minute sauntering commute in the morning returns to its usual hour of halting frustration. The quiet idyllic wandering in book store aisles will return to bumping and constantly being in somebody’s way or someone in yours as you peruse the shelves as if shopping inside a pinball machine.
Ah, August, you have become far too short over the years.