In the absence of weather, small talk would be severely compromised.
“It’s another day, isn’t it?” the neighbor would say.
“Yep, sure is a day,” we would reply.
Farmers would have nothing to complain about except, of course, the government. Store clerks could no longer ask, “Warming up out there?”
A world absent of weather? Imagine the muted calm. Imagine the silences.
Up here in the Great White North, Tim Horton’s couldn’t give us those hilarious TV ads where a concerned employee looks outside and pronounces, “Weather’s coming. Better put on more soup.” Canada: a nation where the doughnut shops are named after hockey players and their soup servers really care about weathered outdoor workers.
How we view weather is a key difference between urban and rural dwellers. We city folk no doubt leave the impression that the ideal climate is one that replicates an indoor mall. Farmers see weather as life and death, or at least as profit and loss, and always believe that the good weather is wasted on that “unbroke” section of scrub bush 5 km down the road.
Although I must say that depending upon the weather year after year gives some farmers a healthy philosophical bent. The few friends of mine who farm are more sane and grounded when it comes to rain, hail, snow and scorching heat than most urban hipsters. Those who toil in office cubicles often seem to take it hardest that they stumble out into real weather at the end of the day only to find it lacking in some key quality. Sweaty. Chilly. Wrecks her hair. Soaks through his Italian loafers.
I try to avoid complaining about the weather and taking it personally. It seems so pointless. What does a complaint do against a rainy day? What effect does a scowl have on a howling north wind?
Of course, my resolve has been broken. Many times. By dastardly weather that was just plain out to get me. Returning from a conference in Arizona (shirt sleeves and shorts, of course) in late November one year, I landed in an early winter blizzards. In the Calgary airport parking lot, I pounded at the layer of ice on my car until the windshield cracked, and spent the rest of the winter shaking in cold anger.
In recent years, climate change has put a new spin on idle weather-talk. “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s,” Neil Young sang forty some years ago. For longer than that there have been strong suspicions that human activity is tilting our weather patterns.
Even still, every time a town somewhere in the world is hit by a cold wind or unexpected snow flurry, folks pipe up with that predictable lines, “where’s that global warming when we need it?”
As weather watchers know, whether they are amateurs or pros, weather is going to have its way. We live on a small globe that’s spinning through space. That in itself means that what we call weather is never a constant, never a simple matter.
Unless you work at Tim Horton’s and weather means it’s time to put on more soup.
One certainty about weather: it reminds us that we don’t yet live in an entirely virtual world. So perhaps all our small talk about weather isn’t so small after all. Perhaps weather is one of our last remaining mysteries, and we — the ignorant masses — are simply showing it due respect.
We humans are an insignificant tribe. The weather is bigger than us. It is a good thing if we keep that in mind.
‘Morning Frost’ © Lorne Daniel