I think of part of my job as cashier at a local market as “babble bot,” as in “Shut up, babble bot, stop talking, that person isn’t even listening to you shut up shut up shut up and hand them their change DO NOT say ‘Have a nice day!'” Because I have a painfully narcissistic need for everyone to like and think well of me I can’t be a thank-you-come-again cashier – I want to make people smile; I want them to feel I am genuinely interested in the quality of the rest of the day they are about to have. And I am, sort of – who *wouldn’t* want someone to have a nice day? If we all had nice days I imagine there would be a lot less crossbow commuting incidents.
Where was I going with this …. Ah. My retail persona is smiley and maybe a little (I am ashamed) folksy and interested in your check-out experience. Why stick with thank-you-have-a-nice-day when there are so many other words? My latest babble bot programming, given the recent cold snap, is “Stay warm out there!” And that, of course, kicks off the Weather Conversation.
Weather is universal. It’s a wonderful nothing-to-talk-about cliche, despite the very essence of its cliched-ness. It’s a more-or-less safe conversation starter when you feel as though something more should be said, but “I like your green shirt” just doesn’t seem enough. People like to ask me if I’m cold, standing near the doors all day (honest reply, “No.” I sleep with the window cracked through winter and wear short sleeves year-round); I ask them how the roads are. The short answer is always “Oh heavens, it’s bad outside.” And I smile, and they leave, and I get ready for the next round of “I thought this snow was supposed to stop an hour ago!”
What I’m getting at is, for six hours today I got variations on “More snow? Oh no!” There’s another snowpocalypse set for Wednesday afternoon and the entire state is gripping its jugs of milk with white knuckles and haggard woe-are-we expressions. And after a while I start to get a little bit testy with everyone who is sick of winter in January. Friends: The spring equinox is in March. We’ve got about two months of winter left on the calendar, so grab your snowboots by the straps and pull yourself together. After all, you live in New England.
This is what I just don’t get. When we’re kids, snow is awesome and amazing and fun. There are magical surprise days unexpectedly free from school and highly dangerous, exciting activities to participate in like sliding down hills in recycling bins. There are igloos to build and dogs to tease by playing fetch with makeshift balls that sink into the landscape never to be found. We also don’t have much choice when it comes to tolerating snow – we were born here, we live here, we’re not yet old enough to apply to sunny warm universities and live out our winters in SPF bliss.
Not that I would, personally. There isn’t a lot anchoring me here beyond family and a decrepit old dog. I don’t own property or have a family or a career – I can pick up and leave at any time, for any place, and for a while I did – almost as far north as I could get, to Alaska. What I’m getting at is, it’s possible to move away to someplace south of the Mason-Dixon or west of Voluntown, but I don’t, because I am a born-grouchy, stick-in-the-mud, sourpuss New Englander, and paht of living here is putting up with the weather. I’m too short to reach the top of my vehicle and have to beat the snow off it with a broom, I really don’t care for the cake of ice that form between the tops of my boots and my jeans, I hate the constantly-wet boot-printed kitchen floor because I can’t find my slippers with the good soles and always end up with wet socks. I am one path through the yard shy of shoveling myself into a heart attack.
But I put up with it, because I can’t turn off the sky and I don’t feel like eating grits for breakfast. I actually like the blue silence of a snowy night and I really don’t mind driving that much – for one thing, there are less cars on the road, and as long as you don’t drive like a moron you’ll be okay. (Incidentally, this includes driving UNDER the speed limit as well as over – if you’re going to do 35 on the highway why did you get on in the first place? Quit trying to kill the rest of us piled up behind you). And all of this is a round-about ramble of not shouting “Yes! Yes there is more snow coming! No I don’t hate it! I put up with it! That’s why I live here! To watch the seasons change! For heaven’s sake it is only January and no I am not sick of winter please have a nice day!”