A tempest in a planet

Would you feel tough walking in that blizzard?/ Nic McPhee

Would you feel tough walking in that blizzard?/ Nic McPhee

I don’t know whether the weather is a subject worth talking about

Weather is, quite possibly, one of the most common conversation topics, but each area of the world has a different reaction to its many different permutations (the weather, not the conversations about weather; all of those are invariably dull). Those who live in climates that are used to extremes, like us hardy Saskatchewan folk, will soldier on while complaining bitterly, both about the weather itself and those who cannot handle cold. They may even (gasp) whine about it too much.

On the other hand, if it snows in England, the world comes to a manic, panicky, screeching halt. If the people who clean off the runway, who I always imagine to be dotty old men with brooms, are unable to do so, then Heathrow becomes an inaccessible mess. If any significant white stuff falls from the heavens in certain parts of the world, then a relevant army might get called in. Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, people are opening their garage doors to be met with a wall of snow.

I am not advocating for Argentina to buy snowplows, nor should the British supermarket chain Tesco suddenly do a roaring business in snow blowers, but it would be nice to see a change in approach to how we talk about weather. You see, the weather is rarely perfect, and it is always horrible for some. “It’s too hot,” say those who could overheat in a beer cooler; “it’s far too cold,” whine those who practically live in tanning beds. There is no happy medium here. There is no optimal amount of snow, no perfect amount of sun, any good time for a thunderstorm. So, why do we obsess over it and condemn others for their inability to handle such uncontrollable things? Because it is just another case of a superiority complex.

We love to feel like we, as individuals, are better than someone else at something. We always have to one-up people. It’s a constant ‘well, back in my day’ type of conversation. For example, someone could say, “Back in my day, you used to have to walk uphill to school both ways during a snow storm and if you stopped to look at the scenery, you’d freeze in place and die of hypothermia.” And no, that was not a hypothetical quote from one of those hypothetical janitors I mentioned earlier, or a senior citizen during a moment of reverie. Rather, it was a prospective utterance from a twenty-something in Regina who has never left the city and doesn’t know what, say, an earthquake feels like, or the fear a tornado warning might fashion inside those who live in vulnerable areas of the United States.

Our showmanship, sadly, has extended to Mother Nature’s whim and fancy. We can’t commiserate with people anymore about how horrible the weather must be in location X; we have to tell them how our lives are so much worse than theirs. So, I have a proposal: why don’t we agree to move on to more stimulating conversations and leave the weather as a mere footnote? It could be a conversation starter, rather than the main course.

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