McCarthy: Let’s talk about weather

Why do we talk about the weather, and what can we do with it?

Kate McCarthy

After another national tragedy, after devastating policy change, or lack of policy change that’s needed to help us progress, what is there to say? It seems like all the best points have been made time and time again, all the angles examined and discussed. But there’s always one thing everyone can come back to: the weather.

So why do we do it? Many of us face the matter with exasperation, mild annoyance and eye rolling. It’s the most banal small talk of all. And yet, spend some time near elevators or a bus stop and see people dissect weather with gusto. Discussion threads might include good weather we’re having, bad weather we’re having, how this weather is different from other weather we are used to having, weather where I am from versus weather where you are from versus weather where we are right now and how the weather might be soon. I’d go on, but I’m pretty sure my editor might tell me it’s a flimsy way to flesh out a column.

Weather is the great neutralizer, for good or bad. If nothing else, you have the weather in common with pretty much anyone you might encounter. It’s not political (usually, in its most basic conversational form) and it doesn’t require any previous experience or background knowledge. It’s not high stakes enough to start a fight — usually everyone can agree that the humidity is simply unbearable. The topic of weather is universal, as it occurs all over the world in all its forms. It’s a conversation opener to lead to bigger and better things, or to signal that perhaps you’d better end it soon. Maybe your Uber driver or bus stop acquaintance will take it from there and let conversation blossom, or they’ll rail against liberals perpetuating the myth of global warming. Either way, we’ll probably never stop talking about weather.

Oscar Wilde said, “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Exchanging pleasantries about the heat or the cold or anything in between is certainly a way to avoid challenge or tackling other points. Talking about weather without addressing its alarming, human-induced changes is comically avoidant. Discussing the subject can certainly bring us together, but you can also wield weather as your weapon.

The next time you hear someone say black people should be more grateful and quit protesting the national anthem, slap them with a, “Think these clouds will go away? Personally, I’d love some sun.” If you encounter someone invalidating genderqueer identity, toss in an, “It’s pretty hot out. One time I went to Florida. It was also hot there.” In the event that you trip over someone explaining why gun control is unfeasible, try out a, “Gosh, we’re getting a lot of rain. I bet the plants will love this.” Next time I’m met with hate or resistance to progress, I’ll be ready with an, “I’m actually from California, where we don’t get much real weather, so I’m loving this snow!”

Dissecting a conversation pattern might seem silly, and maybe it is, but examining the ways we relate and why is timeless. We’ll never be without the weather until we inevitably explode! So have fun with it until then.