- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ah, the rites of spring. And maybe a few wrongs, too. Ready for the big moment?

Spring arrives at precisely 1:26 p.m. tomorrow, according to NASA, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Navy and all the other agencies that officially refer to that balmy phenomenon as the vernal equinox — which sounds a little questionable, as if somebody named Vern contracted a medical condition by mistake on a visit to, say, Guatemala.

(“Hey Vern, did that equinox clear up OK?”)

The vernal equinox also might be something for Jiffy Lube to address after the car has had a particularly trying day.

(“Ma’am, we’re gonna have to flush out the system to get the vernal’s equal knocks. That’s an extra $39.95, unless you got a coupon.”)

Yes, well. Jiffy Lube, Vern and the equinox aside, spring’s imminent arrival is meant to be a time of renewal for one and all, ideally celebrated with a vigorous interpretive dance on the corner of 16th and K streets Northwest.

(“What seems to be the problem, officer? That music? Why, it’s Igor Stravinsky, sir. You know. The ‘Rites of Spring’ guy? Officer? Officer? Gee, do I at least get a phone call?”)

Yes, well. The best defense is to blame it all on spring fever, particularly if a misdemeanor charge is pending.

Actually, 78 percent of us believe spring fever exists, and 70 percent say we have experienced it, at least according to Luntz Research, which surveyed 1,000 adults on behalf of Lexus, the luxury car manufacturer.

An additional 89 percent of the respondents reported they would not be interested in curing a case of spring fever if they came down with one, something Vern and his equinox might not relate to.

Meanwhile, the Luntz survey found that the spring-fevered set believes a barbecue or picnic is the best treatment for the condition, followed by a journey to the beach, a road trip, outdoor sports, a baseball game, golf, mountain biking or water sports.

Cocktails on the veranda sound good right about now, too.

“Spring fever is a physiological reality. It’s more than a state of mind. There are actually chemical changes happening in your body,” psychologist Mark Hatton told the researchers, who describe him as a therapist specializing in “adjustment issues.”

Mr. Hatton advises anyone with spring fever to go outside and “release those pent-up feelings. Don’t fight it. Just go with it.”

See? When you end up in court for jigging about to Stravinsky in a high-security area just a few blocks from the White House, just use the Hatton Defense. Of course.

(“Your Honor, I was only releasing those pent-up feelings. I couldn’t fight it. I just went with it.”)

All of us here in the Bake a Cake With a File in It Department will come for a visit next month.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Soap and Detergent Association also have conducted a survey, this one gauging the “personal cleaning routines” of 1,009 men and women around the country.

The soap folks report that 60 percent of Americans agree springtime is the best time to get down and dirty and rid their homes of grime and clutter. Psychologists should pay close attention to these findings, particularly those who offer dust-bunny desensitization therapy or a 12-step treatment for broomaholics.

The survey revealed that 98 percent of us feel good about ourselves when our homes are clean.

Imagine. Feeling good via mop, uplifted by sponge. Quick; wake the town and tell the people — and maybe notify Mr. Clean, the Ty-D-Bol Man and the International Sisterhood of Mothers-in-Law. The entire nation should take off tomorrow and get our houses in order so we can all feel good about ourselves.

Last but not least, two-thirds of the respondents in a recent workplace poll said they would consider playing hooky from the office on a particularly splendid spring day; more than 40 percent had done just that, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

But beware, the publication cautions, even though the Ides of March already have come and gone. Such behavior may not be simple spring fever. It may mean that the hooky player in question is suffering from “work stress and career imbalance.”

Uh-oh. We have just been notified by Capt. Darryl B. Swank of the Tacky Patrol to end this missive on an intelligent, classy note — which means throwing in some poetry, of course. So here is a soupcon of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from “The Theologian’s Tale,” written in 1863:

Thus came the lovely spring with a rush of blossoms and music,

Flooding the earth with flowers, and the air with melodies vernal.

(As in our Vernal? “Say, Vern. Hey Vern. … Oh Vern — has the equinox cleared up yet?”)

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and personal cleaning routines for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at 202/636-3085 or [email protected]washington times.com.

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