Let’s talk about the weather. I know, that’s supposed to be the most banal subject of conversation, but the weather is something everyone can relate to. From the polar vortex to an atmospheric river, weather affects us all. In fact, we reveal our personalities through our interaction with the elements, especially when it comes to the snows of winter. Consider the following personality types:
Are you a believer? When the weather forecast calls for 5 to 12 inches of snow overnight, do you snuggle under the covers, sure that it will be a snow day? Or do you wake up early to shovel that mountain of snow before you have to leave for work? Oops, there was only an inch of snow, followed by icy rain. I remember that one time, many years ago, when the forecast called for three straight days of sunshine. With full faith in the forecasters, I looked forward to those lovely, sunny days. Alas, instead of three days of sunshine, we got three days of fog. Somewhere up there the sun was shining, but at street level it was the thickest, pea-soupiest fog you’ll ever have the chance to get lost in. For the record, we didn’t get even one sunny day. So much for believing!
Or you might be a denier. No matter what the forecast, you expect the absolute opposite. If the forecast calls for rain, you dust off your bottle of sunscreen. If two inches of snow are predicted, you pull out the snow blower and prepare for a blizzard. If 12 inches of snow are in the forecast, you plan on sleeping in because you know we’ll only get an inch and a half, hardly worth shoveling.
Alternatively, you could be one of those charming folks who engage in magical thinking. You think that whatever you say or do causes the weather to behave in a certain way. If you carry an umbrella, it won’t rain. If you neglect to put on your studded tires in September, we’ll have an early snowfall followed by torrential rain that will transform your neighborhood streets into an ice arena. If you say in November, “I think we’ll have a good year for skiing,” then it won’t snow all winter and it will be all your fault. If you’re a magical thinker, relax; you’re in good company. Remember, if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, we’ll have six more weeks of winter.
Assuming that we do have a long, snowy winter (knock on wood), you’ll have ample opportunity for exhibiting your individual personality traits as you shovel your driveway.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you shovel across your driveway in parallel rows, making sure that every bit of snow makes its way into the sculpted piles framing your driveway? Or if using a snow blower, do you ensure that the resulting walls of snow are of uniform height and appearance?
Are you a pragmatist? When faced with a berm blocking the end of your driveway, do you only shovel out the middle, just wide enough for your car to pass, and leave the rest to freeze solid and linger until the ice goes out on the Tanana River? I remember that one winter when we lived in an upstairs apartment with two entrances. We only used the back stairs, so we never shoveled the front steps — why waste the effort? The snow did freeze solid, to the dismay of the long-suffering paperboy.
Are you an introvert, who wants nothing more than to shovel your driveway and go back inside, or are you an extrovert who glories in chatting with all the neighbors in the artificial social event caused by a heavy snowstorm? There was that one time when I was living in New York City and a good 5 inches of snow fell. The habitual hustle and bustle of passersby on the busy sidewalks transformed into shopkeepers and residents leaning on their snow shovels to pass the time of day, commiserating with each other over the unaccustomed snow. It was the friendliest moment of my year in the city.
Are you a critic, quick to judge your neighbors’ technique when it comes to snow shoveling? Maybe they don’t pile the snow neatly enough for you, or, horror of horrors, they shovel it into the street. Or are you one of those generous, selfless souls who trundle their snow blowers down the street to tackle the neighbors’ berms?
Every snowy day presents an opportunity to display the whole gamut of personality traits. The bottom line is, if you want to get to know someone better, try talking about the weather.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life. Her column runs on the last Sunday of every month.