What does the groggy meteorologist talk about when he accidentally makes eye contact with a talkative stranger upon entering the elevator at five in the morning? He has to say something. They’ve already established an “I’m aware you exist in this tight space” relationship with the eye contact they already made and politeness prevents him from ignoring the obviously-eager-to-talk stranger completely. Does he reluctantly go straight to business? He hasn’t even taken off his bone-dry raincoat yet and the stranger wore suede shoes today. An obvious mistake seeing as how a cold front is moving in around noon with an eighty percent chance of showers until nine tonight.
The stranger nods at him and smiles.
“How…how about that rain later today,” the meteorologist exhales in an exhausted, pleading tone.
“Yeah, I heard it was supposed to get bad later today. Can’t wait for sunny skies again.”
The meteorologist is immediately irritated; he quietly brands the stranger an idiot who’s aware of what’s coming and deliberately made that poor choice of footwear. The sensible raincoat he wore in preparation for the impending precipitation suddenly becomes too warm for his shoulders and a bead of sweat forms at his graying hairline. He loosens his tie and stands up straighter than before, icy words forming on his lips to fire back at the stranger he’s so critical of after only ascending two floors. Not only has he lowered himself to small talk and essentially started work early before clocking in, but this stranger is a fool and should be chastised for making such poor life choices.
“Me too,” he replies without the venom he forecasted.
Silence pressurizes the coffin they’re in and the dinging of the floor indicator light pierces it every few seconds, providing a momentary distraction. The meteorologist realizes, yet again, he’s a skipping record. He’s a cartoon character and his whole life is two dimensional, centered squarely on only one topic. The elevator comes to a halt at the third floor and the stranger makes his way off, giving a nod to the meteorologist on the way out. Everything, including the meteorologist’s dignity, exits with him.
I like the science of weather. I think it’s fascinating how our entire lives are improved by summer mornings with clear sunrises and can end in an instant because of a severe storm later on within the same day. But we often talk about the weather because it’s something everyone in the area has to deal with simultaneously. It’s the old, reliable screwdriver in the conversational toolbox we all carry. Due to how often we use our screwdriver to loosen the tension in an awkward social situation, the majority of the population vehemently hates to talk about weather. The last thing they want to do around people they know is to root around in that busy toolbox and whip out the familiar old device again. And it’s understandable; talk about carpet all day and you’d get sick of carpet. Talk about the flight patterns of Canadian geese for 8 hours and you’d get sick of that too. People want diversity in conversation.
But I actually enjoy talking about the weather. It’s probably the one unifying thing for all of humanity that is without political, ideological, or religious bias. We’re forced to relinquish all control over to nature which is why I believe we talk about it so much. It’s something we don’t control so we feel compelled to constantly rate and critique it because there’s not a soul to blame. No one feels bad saying to another person that the weather is horrible today because there’s no one on Earth that is responsible for making it horrible. If you said a painting was horrible, there’s someone who might feel bad about that negative feedback because they’re the one who’s responsible for putting it out into the world.
Blaming the weather for sour moods, aches and pains, bad omens, and other negative things is easy because it’s the perfect scapegoat. You can’t punish the weather for making your day terrible. It’s this universal force you can shamelessly slander without reprimand and we all need that outlet so we don’t have to admit that our sour moods are because we’re ashamed of how we were rude to someone that morning, or the aches and pains we feel are because we don’t eat healthy and exercise, or that omens aren’t scientifically proven to even exist in the first place. It’s the comfort blanket we can wrap ourselves in to whine and moan with others regardless of who they are and what they believe. And ultimately, when two strangers agree that the rain is miserable outside, they form a small little bond in that moment and the awkward social tension they may feel loosens just enough to make their situation more bearable.
So I enjoy talking about the weather not just because I think the science behind it is genuinely interesting, but also to alleviate anxiety with strangers and to find something on which two very different people concur. It’s about making that bond, regardless of how small, through the tiniest shred of agreement.
It makes life a little sunnier.