As The Girlfriend and I get ready to go up to Maine for four days to visit her parents, I can focus on only two things – the weather, and the monitor of this guy in my office who keeps calling me over to show me forwards his friend sent him featuring lame jokes and naked women (e.g. the forward reads, in large, obnoxious text: “Don’t you love coming home from playing 18 holes of golf and your wife greeting you at the door with a can of cold beer?” Scroll down to picture of topless model lifting a keg of Heineken. Cue awkward laughter as I back out of the room, leaving no opportunity for him to stop mid-laugh and say, “So really, Dan, how does this picture make you feel?”
Thanks for the awkward memories!
But mostly I’m concerned with the weather, specifically that it’s supposed to rain every single day we’re there. And seeing as how we’re staying in a cabin on a lake, miles and miles away from even a grocery store (hours away from anywhere serving Ketel One) not being able to go outside is “unfortunate” in the same way making plans to meet someone over the internet and finding out you’re really on Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” is “unfortunate.” (If you’re keeping a tally of child endangerment jokes, that’s two.)
Even more than that, we’ve decided not to drive the nine hours this year, as doing so in past trips has led to hysteria and the inevitable discussion of which closer state we should make her parents move to, which I’m sure they just love. The frequency with which they hear someone say “You live far away” is about equal to the frequency with which an Arab hears someone say “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Plus the flight was actually cheaper than the price of renting a car. So when you think about it, I’m a real asshole for ever driving in the first place. Rock on.
At every turn today, I’ve been talking to people about the weather, hoping that maybe they have some sort of insight into nature that weather forecasters don’t. Like maybe I’ll happen to ride the elevator with the one old investment banker in my building who just happens to have run a farm for the first 40 years of his life, who will tell me, “Those weather forecasters don’t know their ass from their foot. I woke up this morning and the leaves on the trees weren’t even showing their top-side. The rain’s at least a quarter fortnight away.”
Instead, I’ve heard the same thing over and over.
“Rain for the next four days. Of course. It always rains on the weekend. Always.” – Old woman handing out AM New York outside the subway station
“I was supposed to have a barbecue this weekend. Now I guess I’ll just sit inside and drink all weekend.” – Staples sales assistant (who may be suicidal)
“We’re gonna be swimming in it this weekend.” – deli counter worker
“Yaaaah. Rain all the time.” – Dunkin Donuts employee
“Freaking weatherman, if only I could be wrong 50% of the time at my job and not be fired.” – angry, chubby man in elevator (Note: I have spoken to this man at least three times over the years and every time it has been about the weather and every time he has said exactly that, as though he actually resents the weatherman.)
Which makes me wonder (Carrie Bradshaw voice): why is everyone always so eager to talk about the weather? Why, when a conversation is struck up between strangers, does the topic invariably come around to the weather? Is it that men are such bumbling idiots who don’t know what they want, and women can be empowered by their sexuality, but only to the point where they find a rich man to settle down with? Or maybe it’s just because women, like the weather, change everyday. And if that’s the case (focus in on computer screen) when will the weather . . . stop being so much like the weather?
Whether it is an innocuous comment like, “Can you believe the snow out there?!” or something more subtle like, “It’s so gorgeous out today, isn’t it?” or when someone comes back from vacation and, as though scripted, you say, “How was your trip?” and they respond “It was great. We had a lot of fun and the weather was perfect,” there’s no denying that when there is nothing else to say, the forecast is the topic of choice. And while it’s a joke of a cliché to “talk about the weather,” and everyone is willing to make fun of the person who says, “Hot enough for you?” the fact remains that just because you word it a little differently and instead say, “I love hot weather as much as the next guy, but this is a little much,” doesn’t exculpate you from the societal weather conversation.
And honestly, I find nothing wrong with that. Because while I may want for a more meaningful interaction with my fellow man (I am a humanist, after all) I understand that the weather is the one thing that everyone has in common (besides the fact that we will all die a meaningless death someday, but the last time I said to a girl, “So, does it bother you that there’s nothing after you die and the world will go on without you for eternity?” she just cried and cried and then I paid or my groceries and had to leave). Through different jobs, different families, seeing different movies, participating in different governments, having different sex with different people, peering in different people’s windows late at night, hiding different charges on different credit cards for different German websites (that’s three), eating different food and telling different lies to your friends about that thing on your lip; through different emotions, different brands of bottled water, different ways to skin a cat, different ways to answer the question “Who are you and what are you doing with my dog?” – through all that we are all subject to THE WEATHER. So if we occasionally grasp for that, for a moment just to fondle our sameness, I say, Ask away.
Which doesn’t change the fact that in six hours I will be flying through a lightening storm grabbing The Girlfriend’s hand saying, “IF WE DIE, KNOW THAT I’M SORRY I YELLED AT YOU FOR LEAVING YOUR SOCK ON THE COUCH!” And at the tail end of that flight I will be kayaking during a torrential downpour trying to convince everyone that “it’s not so bad” as the family dog hides under a log whimpering at me. But no matter, because if nothing else we’ll have plenty to talk about. And fondling someone’s sameness takes a lot longer than you might expect.
Especially if you’re hanging out with these guys.