But nobody does anything about it,” a quote attributed to Charles D. Warner or Mark Twain. A truism, no matter which man said it first. As I swelter in the first heat wave after a long stretch of rainy days, this weather quote spins in my mind. I’m sure someone vocalized similar sentiments long before these words were set in print. It’s a simple fact that when you don’t know what to say, you talk about the weather – a topic of interest for everyone.
Whenever strangers meet and one or the other starts a simple courtesy exchange, the weather is usually covered, especially if unusual conditions part the social gulf: “Fine weather,” said with a smile. “Have you ever seen so much snow?” said looking out the window at work as more white stuff falls, or worse, in an airport where monitors flicker ‘cancelled’ on your flight. “Wow, what a cloud burst,” said standing on the corner with an umbrella scrunched over your head amid a crowd waiting for the light to turn green. “Lord, I hope this heat wave breaks soon,” said waiting for the train home, wilting with perspiration and fanning yourself with a piece of paper.
Even when well-known acquaintances meet, there is usually a brief exchange about the weather and how it is effecting them personally: “This rain makes traffic move at a snail’s pace!” or “This drought has killed my new plants,” or “the trails held so many puddles and mire I came home covered in mud.
Plus, the weather provides complaints about and excuses to avoid certain tasks: “It’s too hot to exercise,” or “It’s too cold to paint,” or “It’s too wet to mow.” And offers cheers such as: “No school today!” or warnings of those dangerous events: “We have to seek shelter -- right now.
Our preoccupation with the weather seems logical. We dwell in it. Without an atmosphere, there is no life, not for us, so our obsession with the condition of our envelope seems valid. Weather affects how we live and travel, our style of home, what we wear, and even what we eat. We want to know the temperature, the humidity and if is raining or snowing. If it’s too hot we turn on the air-conditioner, too cold, the furnace. Weather defines so much of our daily lives. So laugh over the small talk about weather, but think about the topic beneath the words, the one that bridges all our differences – our common world. Maybe that’s the reason the weather, relegated to short quips and exchanges, is our most popular topic.
And the second phrase of that ‘Everyone talks about the weather,’ quote? The decades to come may or may not prove its truth. Let’s hope we can.