A common misconception about the nuances of good conversation is that when the topic of weather is presented and subsequently exploited, you are essentially immersed in what is exactly the opposite of good conversation.
You have probably heard this many times.
You may have heard it this morning when you ran into your friend Sandra. You spent ten minutes discussing the state of your frozen finger tips only to interrupt each other simultaneously to apologize for falling victim to the conversational equivalent of a class on the history of a very particular genus of tuberculosis that has heretofore affected no one. But why feel bad? Or better yet, guilty? In a city like New York, where the climatic circumstances are as irrational as the human wildlife forced to endure it, how should one should be expected to discuss much else?
It was, after all, 56 degrees on Monday. Yesterday it was 28. That’s 28 degrees fahrenheit, not celsius. And if I didn’t have a television, or an app that provided minute-to-minute weather updates, I would not have known this. Unlike Monday, when it didn’t just rain, but downpoured torrentially from the hours of 8am to 8pm — no breaks to recuperate, no interruptions for Drybar hair aficianados, nothing — yesterday, it was sunny. And that all-orbiting star, my friends, can be hugely deceiving.
Today is not much better and the state of my finger tips still seems to be the centerpiece of several exchanges. I don’t regret it.
One should not feel culpable for maintaining poor conversational skills if she is to comment on the aberrant behavior of her city’s weather habits. Never mind the unilateral frustration that comes with this particular bout of bad-weather luck (though incidentally, Buffalo has received 60+ inches of snow, making the need for sixteen layers a sort of brisk stroll in the park), but on a more interpersonal level, how better are we expected to connect with each other?
Maybe this morning you shared in the collective struggle that is the definitive end of iced coffee season with a deli veteran you have come to regard as a close friend. Or maybe while you were picking up your dry cleaning, you scoffed at the white linen shirt that you’d had cleaned and looked over at Jack, the man who has become indelibly responsible for your spotless hygiene as it pertains to clothing, “Guess I won’t be needing this now!” You joked. And then you both laughed, wished each other good luck and separated.
The problem with any other breed of small talk, you see, is that you are liable to offend or be offended. One woman’s child plight could be another’s marital bliss on line at a grocery store. A different man’s financial woes could be the best-day-ever for a similarly suited sir on a trading desk, in an office building, on the coast of New Jersey. But something we can mutually agree upon, regardless of our personal policies and the conditions that inform them is a sense of rancid hatred for the worst two words to have ever come together and make headline news: Polar Vortex. So, really, what’s so bad about a conversation about the weather anyway?