I don’t lie about a winter temperature I’ve seen on the thermometer outside my bedroom window when I report it at the office later in the morning. But if it is a very low reading, I don’t announce it right away either. I wait for others to report the readings on their thermometers. Then, if the reports are higher than mine, I weigh my timing carefully, and at what I consider to be an appropriate moment, play my own reading.
“It was six below at your house?” I might say. “Well, that’s really getting down there. At six o’clock, it was nine below at my place.”
If there follows nothing but some wows, no-kiddings, and is-that-rights, a brief but satisfying victory is mine. Sometimes, however, someone will have waited even longer to play an even lower temperature. The victory is then his or hers. Of course, I can’t say my day is then ruined but no one enjoys beginning their day on a slightly sour note. However, that’s the risk one must be willing to take if one decides to play the New England Weather game in a competitive fashion.
The same rule – i.e., no lying – and procedures apply to the amount of snow in inches in one’s driveway after a night storm and, indeed, to the temperature during very hot weather when one’s reported high can conceivably lose to a temperature that is a degree or two lower in the shade.
Most of our weather conversation is not in any way competitive but is bland to the extreme. A cliché question is given a cliché answer, which is followed by a cliché summary or ending beginning with the word “well.”
“Is it gonna snow?”
“Smells a little like it.”
“Well, I hope it holds off until I get home.”
Often the only way to inject a little life into these ordinary weather conversations is to exaggerate and, no, exaggerating in a “tall tale” is not lying.
For instance: “Snowed? Well, I guess it snowed. It took me two days to sweep out what blew through the keyhole.” (Doesn’t look like I’ll be using that this winter. But you never know.)
Occasionally, someone will say something truly original. It’s very rare. But it happens. Stopping at a general store outside Laconia, New Hampshire, last summer, I said to the elderly man behind the counter, “Sultry, isn’t it?”
“Doubt that,” he replied and then, after a moment of silence, “We don’t have ‘sultry’ hereabouts.”
Do you suppose he really meant to make me feel like a loser?
Listen to Jud read this column aloud: