Weather (App) Envy

In Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan wrote:  “You don’t need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows.”

65a72fb0c878e2aa7a8bf93b385b6a9aIf The Voice of His Generation were writing that song in today’s smartphone era, he would have said you don’t need a weather app, either.  You can always stick your hand out the window to see if its raining, or open the door and receive an arctic blast to assess just how freaking cold it is.  And if you live in Columbus, Ohio in the winter months, you don’t really need to check the weather at all — you can just presume that it’s in the 30s, totally overcast, and drizzling a “wintry mix,” and you’ll be right more than 90 percent of the time.

I’m convinced that the real use of weather apps isn’t checking the weather or getting the forecast for your present location.  If that were the case, the apps would just trigger a GPS function, determine where you are, and then tell you the weather . . . but that’s not how they work.  Instead, you can input lots of different locations.  And therein lies the true purpose of weather apps.  They’re not an electronic Wally Kinnan the Weather Man, they’re designed to allow you to provoke your sense of weather envy and then adjust your reaction to the weather in your area by comparing it to other locations.

Check your phone’s weather app, and see how many locations are currently shown on it.  My app has about eight, so if I go to the app home page I immediately get a smorgasbord of different weather realities.  I can see that it’s a lot warmer in Florida, Texas and Arizona, and if I really want to torture myself I can click on one of the locations and get appalling details about just how bright and sunny and warm it is in comparison to damp, cold, gray Columbus.  And then I’ll inevitably go in the opposite direction and see just how cold it is up in Stonington, with maybe a brisk wind blowing in off the bay and some leaden, snow-laden fog to chill the bones even more, which helps to get me back to a state of reluctant Columbus weather acceptance.  And once I’ve achieved an acceptable weather equilibrium, I’m ready to bundle up and face the music.

It works in the opposite direction in the summer, of course.  If it’s hot and sticky and miserable here, it’s always going to be hotter and even more miserable in Florida or Texas — while in Stonington the weather is a delightful 76 degrees with lots of sunshine.

The real purpose of weather apps is to tell you that the weather is always better somewhere else.

The Cold Front Cometh

There’s a turning point each winter.  For weeks the trend has been gradual cooling, to the point where you’re acclimated to temperatures that are about 40 degrees.  Then, suddenly, the mercury plummets, and you’re dealing with the first significant snowfall, or the first truly frigid day where the temperature falls below 20.

img_3220This used to be a surprise.  Unless you were someone who actually watched the local news — and who under the age of 90 watches the local news these days? — you had no idea what the weather was going to be.  There’s a reason why the nuns in The Sound of Music sang about Maria being as “unpredictable as weather.”  The weather was a constant surprise.

But that was in the days before weather apps on smartphones became ubiquitous.  Now, when you tap your weather app to see if it’s supposed to rain today, you’re automatically exposed to a solid week’s worth of forecasts — and you can’t help but look at it.  And when I checked the app this morning, I saw that we’re supposed to get a steady diet of lows in the teens, then two days of snow, and finally a day where the low is three degrees.  Three degrees!  I like the song When Will I See You Again? as much as the next R&B fan, but “three degrees” isn’t a word combination I want to hear right now.  It means that the turning point is here, and winter is about to strike with all of its brutal iciness, and it’s time to rotate to the heavier coats and clothing and to start eating hot food at every meal.

I liked it better when the turning point caught me by surprise, and I spent the last few days of pre-winter unaware of what was to come right around the corner, rather than bracing myself for the onslaught.