It's cold as hell in the Northeast today, and it's been a crazy winter pretty much everywhere. This means we're spending a lot of time talking about the weather. How can you do it without sounding like a hackneyed idiot?
The weather is one thing that everyone who leaves their house experiences, and something pretty much everyone can agree on. Everyone thinks that the environmental extremes are awful, so it's always a safe topic for small talk with strangers. You can't bring up politics or sports with a random guy standing next to you in line or the cashier at the grocery store with getting into some sort of petty squabble, but commiserating about the shared experience of what happens under the sky is always safe.
Yet talking about the weather is so obvious that it's a cliche to say it's a cliche, and often we feel bad for even engaging in such an insipid discussion. Here are some ways you can make a conversation semi-tolerable.
This is a good rule for any subject you want to discuss, but one that's particularly important when it comes to the weather. If you're going to talk about the weather, read a forecast so that you can tell others about the latest predictions. It's one thing to grouse about the situation, but it's another to share the news and let people know when there might be some relief. Just don't go around spreading the rampant fear the nightly news weathermen all peddle in. They already give us enough to worry about.
Don't Weather Gloat
If you live somewhere temperate, don't lord it over the people who live somewhere cold by sending an email saying, "It's 90 degrees and sunny here and I just went to the beach." That's just annoying. We know it's nice and tropical where you are and we're jealous, so there's no need to rub it in. We'd probably move there to be nice and warm too, but then we'd have to hang out with your obnoxious ass all the time. And remember, when we're enjoying a nice 60-degree spring day, you'll be roasting in a 100-degree heat wave. Everyone gets good weather and bad weather, don't try to make yours look better. Mother Nature has her way of getting revenge.
Don't Say "Is It Cold Enough for You?"
This is one of those questions that is supposed to be clever, but is totally obnoxious. Everyone from the mailman to the annoying lady in HR who leaves a cardigan on the back of her chair year round asks this, so it's about as original as a Super Bowl winner going to Disney Land. Just don't ask it. Take a half a second and think of something original to say. Please, we beg of you. Let this "joke" die. And this goes for all the permutations of "hot enough," "wet enough," "snowy enough," "typhoon seasony enough." Just don't.
You Only Get to Bitch About One Season
If you're complaining about how testicle-shrivelingly cold it is right now, I don't want to hear you whining when it's ball sweat-inducingly hot outside. You can either hate the cold or hate the hot, but not both. People can only endure so much negativity, so save yours for the extreme that you hate the most.
Relive the Bad Old Days
Sometimes the only thing that makes life bearable is thinking about when the situation was worse. When discussing the weather, why not recall those days when the snow was higher, the heat more intense, or the rainy season a whole month longer. "God, this one was bad, but not as bad as the blizzard of '96. Remember that? What a doozy!" Suddenly your predicament doesn't seem so horrible, or intolerable, and you get to share your memories with someone else. Sometimes a bit of negative nostalgia is all you need to form a quick and sunny bond.
Talk About What You Did in the Weather
Everyone knows how many inches of snow we got or how many days in a row it's been 94 degrees. What they don't know is how the weather affected you. "We got so much snow, that I decided to stay in and rearrange my closets. I'm so organized!" or "It was so hot, I just went to the movies to see anything. Turns out Transformers 19 isn't half bad!" It's a way to turn the conversation personal and change the subject to something a bit more interesting—like organization or movies—without looking like a total jackass. After all, who really wants to talk about the weather anyway?