Just back from a wonderful, five-day trip to Louisville, KY and still in that never-neverland mood when the sensibilities of that quirky city feel pretty real. I can still smell boxwood.
For this trip, my husband and I had opted to stay at an elegant B & B, the Dupont Mansion, in the heart of Old Louisville and one block from “Millionaire’s Row.” So the scene for this B & B’s making-polite-conversation-with-total-strangers-while-having-a-sumptuous-breakfast-ritual was an elegant, high-ceiling, crystal glassware-filled dining room.
Nine times out of ten, under such circumstances, after collectively oohing and aahing over such palatial surroundings, what would most strangers—sleepy strangers—talk about? Of course: the weather.
Except that it seems as if weather, like religion and politics, is not a safe, banal conversation-starter any more.
This became crystal-clear (get it?) one morning when my husband and I sat across the dining room table from three people from—yup—Missouri. After we’d heard the story about being shunted into a supermarket walk-in cooler for almost an hour with forty other shoppers to wait out a tornado, the five of us began looking into our laps.
Bill McKibben’s Washington Post article playing in my head, I was hyper-aware of how fraught, how layered that lap-studying moment was. Because one simply doesn’t say aloud, “Jeez! This weird weather we’re having scares the bejeesus out of me!” to a total stranger.
First of all, there’s the possibility you’re talking to a climate change denier—and who wants to get into that over fruit cups and french toast?
But I sensed something else in that heads-bowed moment: A still-working-on-it etiquette: One simply doesn’t talk about the scariness of tornadoes and droughts and deluges and violent weather because it IS so terrifying. It’s a kindness not to speak The Truth?
Well, yes and no. Like discussing religion and politics, it’s a kindness to strangers to tread gently. But now that I’m home, I’m pondering what I could have said in that lap-studying moment.