How about this weather? Small talk from a safe social distance


Tom Petty penned a great line that crossed my mind more than once last week.

“I got my eye on the waterline, trying to keep my sense of humor.”

As long as I’m throwing around borrowed quotes, Mark Twain snagged a good one from Charles Dudley Warner and used it in one of his many lectures: “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” That one sounded so good coming out of Twain’s mouth that most people believe he’s the one who came up with it.

I’ve never really been one to complain too much about the weather. It is what it is. And besides, almost any weather I run across around here is better than the weather in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the place I was born and spent my early years.

Back when I was a sports writer, lousy weather could really throw a wrench in my plans. I’ll never forget the time I drove to Haysi, Virginia, to cover a high school softball game on a humid, early-June day. It was sunny when I climbed in my car in Johnson City, but two hours later, the air was soupy and the skies foreboding as I got out of my car in Haysi.

The clouds opened up a half-inning into the game. As I sat in my car and waited out a 30-minute deluge of biblical proportions, it felt like I was driving through a car wash. I emerged to find out the game had been postponed until the next day. With a heavy sigh, I climbed back in, started the engine and drove the two hours back home with nothing to show for it.

At this point in my life, bad weather only bothers me when it gets in the way of playing golf. Even then, it occasionally gets me out of doing yard work, so I figure I pretty much break even. But let’s be honest – the beginning of last week was a bit much. As the rainy days wore on, I found myself getting irritated to the point I needed to get it off my chest. Wednesday was the last straw. It was in the midst of that soggy, 58-degree day (in May!) when it dawned on me that I really miss small talk.

Weather makes for great small talk. It affects everybody and offends nobody. But you can’t just seek people out to complain about the weather without sounding like a complete loon – the topic has to come up organically, preferably as a way to break up those uncomfortable pauses that arise when you’re having conversations with folks you don’t know.

Small talk’s natural habitat is in lines, waiting rooms and barbershops, and it is best delivered in close proximity. Needless to say, opportunities to make small talk have been about as rare as bathroom tissue during our current global pandemic.

So for the sake of maintaining both a safe social distance and my sanity, I sat down last Wednesday and typed out my small talk: If this rain keeps up, I might start gathering two of every animal. When I was putting on my socks this morning, I realized I’m starting to grow webbing between my toes. My dad was telling me about the old days when they used to have this thing called sunshine. My grass is getting so long, I’m going to have to bail it after I mow it.

Once I got all that off my chest, the weather took a turn for the better, which can only mean one thing – I’m going to have to start complaining more often.


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