We all claim to be experts on what’s seasonal and what’s not, regaling complete strangers with a string of useless weather-related facts that may or may not be true, but we’re greeted with knowing nods and enthusiasm.
I used to think it was a Canberra phenomenon.
Anyone who calls themselves a Canberran will happily tell you about the Christmas it snowed in Canberra or the time it covered Bruce Stadium during a Raiders match. Some of us struggle to remember our partner’s birthday, but we can quote the date and time the snow almost brought a Brumbies match to a standstill.
But after travelling overseas last week, I can confirm we Canberrans are not the only weather wonks on the planet.
At the event I attended, I ran into people I hadn’t seen for years. Some had married, divorced, or had children – very interesting potential conversation pieces. But was that how we opened our chat? No. Almost to a person, our greeting centred around how cold it was (it was cold), that it was very unusual for this time of the year (I have no information to support this, but it was said with such authority I felt it would be impertinent to query it), and whether it would eventually rain (it did).
I’ve worked out that asking about the weather is a tool we’ve subconsciously adopted to test the mood of our interlocutors. Their response will guide us in the direction the rest of the conversation should head.
If, for example, your casual observation about the weather being “crazy” is met with derision and a barrage of facts underlining why there is nothing “crazy” about the recent climate, it’s probably a good idea to keep the chat pretty mundane. If your guest is happy to take you to task over your reading of the weather, I certainly would not raise the war in Ukraine, The Voice or transgender athletes as my next talking point.
The weather obsession has existed forever.
In the days before apps, our chats centred around everyday observations and a generous sprinkling of ridiculous generalisations. Farmers in my hometown would meet once a week to discuss how their crops or livestock dealt with the latest phenomenon.
Like Canberrans, there would be comparisons with days of old and bold predictions. Then it would be back in the ute and back to the farm, none the wiser about anything important despite a good hour of talking about the weather.
Now we have apps, and that has added a new chapter to our conversations. Not only has it given us more confidence to talk about what has happened and what is likely to happen, but it’s also created app envy – the earnest discussions about which apps are the best and which are the most accurate.
Friends of mine have become obsessed.
They can’t go more than half an hour without checking for an update, even if they have absolutely no plan to leave their lounge room for at least half a day. They stare at the radar, gleefully reporting there is no rain in the area (which would explain the clear blue skies outside).
So best you jot down the date and time it snowed in Canberra this month. It just may be the difference between you being the life of your next dinner party or the guest left playing with their peas while the weather wonks trade their facts and observations.