Today, when I stepped off the bus the air in the loop hit me in a different way: it was cool, but not cold, the wind brisk, but not blowing. It’s downright balmy, I thought. And then I caught a glimpse of a digital temperature display: 28 degrees. Huh.
I remember visiting Arizona eleven years ago, in May. We were planning to move there, and I was looking at houses with my Dad. I’d lived in the desert before, but I wasn’t used endless freeways and endless sun. It was sweaty and miserable. And then the sun went down and I stepped outside and the air hit me in a different way: it’s downright chilly, I thought. And then I caught a glimpse of the temperature display in dashboard of our rental car: 99 degrees. Huh.
And with that, a confession: I’m one of those people who loves to talk about the weather.
This has not always been the case. In college, I swore up and down that I hated small talk. Hated it. I decried it as mundane, and unsatisfying for a deep thinker like me, who wanted more out of her relationships. [Yes, I was an arrogant, insufferable intellectual elitist.] What’s more, I thought it to be insincere. I thought that because I didn’t mean it when I asked “How is your day?” that nobody else meant it, either. [Yes, I was completely self-absorbed.] Until one day, as I was blathering on about the uselessness of small talk [Man, shut up, already, College-Me. It’s not like you’re the first person to think herself too interesting for small talk.], my friend K looked at me in surprise and said, “But you’re so good at it.”
This floored me. What did he mean? Did he mean I was insubstantial? Insincere? I figured out later that what he was actually telling me is that I wasn’t as awkward as I thought I was. As all teenagers think they are. Part of hating small talk is being too young to know how to relate to people. Another part of it is being too self-centered to bother trying.
Now that I’m older, I relish the routine exchange of pleasantries with strangers and acquaintances and passers-by. In fact, I don’t even think of it as small talk. I think of it as getting to know the world in small chunks. It’s still not enough. I want to know how your day is, but I also want to know how your life is. In the meantime, let’s just talk about the weather.