Why do we talk about the weather in casual conversation? Not all of us are meteorologists; most of us probably couldn’t even read a barometer. Whether you’re at an awkward gathering where you don’t know anyone, or an even more awkward family gathering, it seems like everyone is suddenly interested in whatever is going on in the sky.
Upstate New York is not the place to move if you’re looking for pleasant weather. If you look at a pamphlet for any college in the Hudson Valley, you won’t see the weekly apocalyptic rainstorms, wind-beaten umbrellas, or wet, defeated-looking students piling into cabs on rainy Friday nights. As I’m typing this, it looks as if the rain and wind is going to shatter my living room window. The Hudson Valley is great for fall foliage and overpriced farm stands, but after November, it turns into a hellish, seemingly never-ending winter reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie. In March or October, you might be lucky enough to experience all four seasons in one week. Along with our weather issues, Hudson Valley residents are not known as the friendliest; this is still New York.
During one of my regular trips to the Hyde Park Stop and Shop, I decided to try and engage strangers in a rousing discussion about the local weather. Nearly everyone I asked complained about the rainy recent summer, but as Hyde Park native Carolyn pointed out in the cosmetics aisle, at least Hudson Valley snowstorms tend to be less severe than those in the city. In fact, she continued, towns further upstate were nearly untouched by Hurricane Sandy apart from flooding which, if you live anywhere near the river, is to be expected from the slightest drizzle. Kamlat, another Hyde Park resident, lamented that, “we needed more summer” this year as she picked out a carton of eggs, pointing out that this year’s was too rainy and chilly. Michelle, who moved to Hyde Park from Queens, shared this sentiment, as did Josh, a visiting Yorktown resident. Almost all of the people I discussed the weather with seemed to act as if the weather is a bureaucratic institution that can be petitioned to for more pleasant conditions. Maybe they felt as if there were a “right” answer to give me, or maybe they just wanted me to go away so they could continue shopping. It seemed like there was not much more to be said about the local weather.
Feeling a bit discouraged by the lackluster answers to my lackluster question, I headed to the Nature’s Promise aisle. Not to stereotype those who eat healthy, I prefer to eat as little substances I can’t pronounce as possible, but I expected to meet someone with strong opinions on the weather. Sure enough, I met Allie, yet another Hyde Park resident who I talked to after putting my almond milk in the basket. When I asked her my standard question, “so how ‘bout that weather?” she replied, “besides the chemtrails and global warming?” She continued to tell me about how most of the clouds are fake because of pollution. Since I’m not an environmental expert, and since Allie seemed to want to continue her shopping after I prodded her further, I decided to give “chemtrails” a quick Google search with my iPhone. Apparently, many are under the impression that the government is using plane engines to spew toxic chemicals into the air. Al Gore admitted this February on the Ellen show that there are scientists trying to block the sun to prevent global warming. How successful they’ve been with that is debatable; as I wrap up this article, I’m looking out from a Cannavino library window to a fairly sunny sky. However, if we ever enter a Game of Thrones-like nine year winter, now you know why.
Maybe Allie is right, but in any case, few people get as excited about the weather as she did. The weather is universal and objective; it affects us all. Until global warming finally melts all the glaciers and Manhattan sinks into the Hudson River, weather continues to be, for most people, the most innocuous method of talking to strangers.