Nice Day, Today?
What would we talk about but for the weather?
What other topic so perfectly and easily resonates with the strangers in our presence because we are unquestionably in this together? Whether we are enduring a storm or basking in warmth, we are sharing this moment, and so we can talk about it with someone we don’t know from Adam; it’s safe.
If it is dumping snow we gripe about shoveling. Rain permits us to wonder when will it end. Extreme heat or cold is worthy of a phrase or maybe even an expletive – “It is freaking freezing/boiling!” This tendency crosses borders, it is not a regional thing. I’ve spoken of weather with strangers all over the world.
We skied under uncharacteristically bluebird skies both Saturday and Sunday, and all everyone could speak about was how lucky we were to be skiing in such agreeable conditions. It was okay the first five chair lifts, but at some point you want to put a halt on the weather talk and just enjoy the moment. Raise your face to the sun, eyes closed, say some private words of thanks to whomever, and get on with it.
I am as guilty as anyone. I frequently lead in to conversations with useless and rather obvious notations about our current weather. It flies out of my mouth before I can stop it, like a pet seeking freedom by squeezing out a door that has cracked open an inch. My mouth opens and there it is: the weather, tumbling out before I can stop it. My default topic. My friend I can always count on. My space filler.
Politics are not so safe – we may be under the same regime, but can be either a staunch supporter or vocal opponent of government. Unless you happen to be at a party convention, in which case you can probably sling some zingers the way of the opposition without starting a fight.
Tragic events in other corners of the world can keep us going for a couple of days, providing the other person doesn’t have a friend or relative visiting the area. A little dicey, this one, proceed with caution. The stranger could get all emotional on you, and then what?
Children can be useful accessories for conversational purposes – a conspiring smile that passes between parents when one child throws a tantrum; a “we’ve all been there” discussion. Dogs, although I don’t own one, can provide another forum for shooting the breeze with total strangers.
But mostly it is the weather, the good old fallback that you can discuss with young and old alike, with people of different economic means, languages, cultures and political persuasions. It is the ultimate unifier, the glue we can count on to dissect at length if we find ourselves stuck in an elevator.
I’m realizing all of those strangers who won’t make eye contact are not rude. They have simply tired of discussing the weather.