Weathering Talking About Weather

You’re not supposed to talk about the weather, right? Everybody knows that. It’s hardly even small talk. Both parties might as well be staring at their phones rather than talk about the weather. Because even our phones can give us the weather these days.

But that, I believe, depends entirely on where you live.

And, as my Tea to Friends introduction, talking about the weather is precisely what I’m going to do.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest—Middle-of-nowhere, Oregon, where patches of blue sky were rare enough that we had names for them. POBs. When these POBs came, it may as well have been the Beatles in 1964. And no one in town wanted to shut up about them. The same thing happened when we got snow one every couple of years. To an Oregonian, sun and snow are actually scintillating topics.

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Better than anything else we had to talk   about—trees, mostly.

I then moved to Arizona for the end of high school. While people did eagerly await monsoon season, and spread around the eternal justification of “dry heat,” for at least 10 months out of the year, weather isn’t even a blip on the radar. There’s no need to question how many layers you have to put on before leaving the house. There’s no momentary desire to stay in a warm house or car with your slippers on, because outside it’s just as warm. Arizona’s weather isn’t a concern—so it’s not an interesting topic.

Fast forward a few years, and I end up in New England. You may know the old adage that certainly rings true: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” My friend Jack offers up another one. “Boston has three weather options—effing cold, effing hot, and effing beautiful. Dress for all three every day.”

People here don’t just talk about the weather. We are obsessed with it. New Englanders have minutely different types of adjectives for the different types of rain and snow and humidity we get. Every Bostonian has a different brand of umbrella she swears by. (Get a Gust Buster, or else your umbrella won’t last very long.) And most anyone who’s spent any time here has that anecdote about that freak snowstorm in October followed by a sunny day, or hour they spent shifting from sunshine to rain to clouds to sun again.

And, whether this is a commentary on my region or my generation or both, I’ve started trusting my iPhone over my window when I’m deciding what to wear in the morning. Even if I wake up to a sunny morning, my trusty electronics will tell me that the rain will start by noon. Even if it’s been wintery-mixing all night, my phone can tell me that, in the times I have to be outside that day, it will be a balmy 50.

And, while my iPhone has let me down a few times—it is, after all, New England, rebellious and disobedient from its inception, down to the weather, more often than not I’ve been glad to have brought a rain coat on an otherwise sunny day.

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In fact, as I write this, I’m watching the sun come out for at least the second time today. I left my apartment this morning to a fair, sunny day, and the stares of everyone I ran into because of my raincoat. Less than an hour later, enough hail was deposited on the ground to make it look like it half a foot of snow. It turned into rain. The driving kind of rain where you can’t see more than a foot out the window. And, ten minutes later, it was all over. The ground was mostly dry and the sun was peeking out from behind the grey clouds that still covered half the sky.

And did we talk about it? Hell yes we talked about it. Facebook and twitter turned into a stream of reactions to the weather and then reactions to the reactions. And that’s what happens every time the weather changes—every minute, if you listen to adages—people talk about it until it’s boring. And, that’s the point, really. There’s nothing interesting about weather, except that it happens. We have no control over it, and it affects us all about the same. But, really, after 400 years of new weather every minute, nobody really has anything new to say.

So, being reduced to posting about the weather, you might as well go back to staring at your phones now. May I recommend the accuweather.com app? The Apple weather app sucks.