If you’ve lived in D.C. for more than a year or two, you know that the first days of spring usually arrive sometime in February. Residents originating from colder climes find this puzzling and somewhat disconcerting at first. But then they get used to it, and they realize that they must keep all their clothing — heavy coats, rain boots, bathing suits, etc. — handy at all times, because you never know when you’re going to need one of them here. In fact, you might need all three in one day.
In shady corners of the city, there might still have been patches of snow on the ground this morning, but these will undoubtedly drain away into the Potomac by midafternoon, when temperatures are forecast to get into the 70s.
Although D.C. has a reputation for harboring the kind of residents who are glued to their Twitter feed 24/7, many of them do not prioritize weather in their top choices of what to be informed about. This is apparent to anyone who uses the Metro in the suburbs, where riders will appear on platforms in puffy coats, knit caps and Uggs alongside others in sleeveless cotton dresses and flip-flops.
When you work downtown, you won’t be able to help but notice a warm day like today (and tomorrow) will inexplicably coax the suit-wearing workaholics out of their corner offices and out into the streets like the scene in Ratatouille where the rats fall through the ceiling and run outside, except with less urgency.
Below are some scenes you will definitely see in D.C. on a warm day in February.
Young men who have cut classes to throw a Frisbee on the mall. They will be singularly focused on themselves and their enjoyment and will charge after the flying Frisbee like a Labrador who’s had too much coffee, possibly knocking you to the ground in their attempt to prevent the flat piece of plastic from falling to the ground.
Young women (and some men, and some older people) wearing little clothing and sunning themselves on the mall and in other public spaces. They will wear sunglasses, bring books and spread a blanket over the still-brown grass, exposing their pale, winter skin — not unlike that of a Perdue Oven Stuffer Roaster — to the rays of the February D.C. sun. Some of them will smoke weed, because everyone’s doing it in public now, but others will just fall victim to the soporific effect of the early spring day like the characters from the Wizard of Oz when they get to the poppy field.
Even more people riding bicycles than usual. You will be hard-pressed to find any day of the year in D.C. sans bicycles. From messengers to environmentalists to rabid cycle enthusiasts to normal people, bikes are a D.C. staple. Some more conventional types store their bikes for the winter, and even though they know that it’s going to get cold again for a month, these people can’t help but pull the tarp off their two-wheelers, pump up the tires and take a spin on a day like this.
People trying to fly kites by the Washington Monument. It’s known to be windy on this slight acclivity — except when you’re standing in line to get to the top of the monument in July. Then it’s 99 degrees without the hint of even a slight breeze, and you pray not so much that your turn inside will come quickly, but that you will soon get to wait on the shady side of the obelisk.
Some talented souls succeed flying kites here — special, fancy, expensive kites you have to order online and that have more than one string. But the rest of us who bought our kites for $1.99 at Target will spend up to an hour haranguing the hapless fool we’ve conned into coming with us to throw the kite into the wind, harder, at the right time without success. Clearly, their failure to do this correctly is the problem. Not the fickle wind, or the cheapness of the piece of plastic bearing the likeness of an Angry Bird.
It doesn’t matter so much what you do on days like today or that you keep to tradition, only that you take the time to welcome the feel of the warm sunshine on your face. You never know when you’ll get another chance.