In fairness, weather in Canada is all pervasive and unpredictable. During the 2002 Winter Olympics - I watched the quarter finals of the men's hockey in 20C weather on the patio of a pub in Toronto; the semis in a minus six chill in Winnipeg two days later; and the finals, two days after that, insulated by layers of down and glasses of wine in a minus 35C deep freeze in Calgary. Exigencies of weather are part of time honoured regional bragging rights. So when my Maritime, Central Canadian, and Prairie friends find themselves enjoying a beautiful day in Stanley Park in mid-October, no wonder that they take the opportunity to imply that I have a climatic soft touch!
What they don't know, is that obsession with the weather is universal, and not just restricted to the imagined extremes of climate. When I first arrived in Vancouver to a sunny warm summer and balmy fall, virtually everyone commented to me what a tough adjustment the weather on the North Shore must be after living in Bermuda. When I answered that so far the weather here was pretty much the same as there, I would get a knowing - "you'll see"!
So, why do we talk this way? I think that the answer is simple. Weather is the ultimate "neutral" topic of conversation. It is something that everyone feels expert on, and that no-one has to follow-up with any commitment to action (as in "everybody talks about the weather, but no-one ever does anything about it.") There are as many opinions, predictions, and truisms about it as there are people willing to comment (and that, it seems, is just about everyone). Weather gives us the chance to drag out the lamest cliches and use them with abandon. ("It's raining cats and dogs", "It's blowing like sixty"; "It's hot as blazes"; "It's like the Arctic out there"). And here, in Canada's rainforest, we can even parse the precipitation down to a specific volume (mist, sprinkle, drizzle, shower, downpour, etc.)
Ultimately, it is our collective favourite conversational gambit. Always timely, and never offensive. Yesterday, after listening to all of my visiting friends comment on the great weather, I mentioned to a Vancouver colleague about what a beautiful fall we were having. His response?
"And then it rains!"