Weather is something that transcends all categories of people, that’s why talking about the weather is so popular – because we ALL experience it! The weather doesn’t discriminate, that’s for sure! In Portland, we’ve had what I call a freak snow storm that has left 6 inches of snow on the ground and is expected to bring another 5 inches today. I was so bowled over by this weather event I sat entranced in my apartment for four hours staring out the window at the snow falling and being blown around by the wind.
One of the amazing side effects of weird weather like this is that it brings people together. Let me explain…
1. When I finally did go outside yesterday, I felt a stronger than usual urge to look passersby in the eye, smile, and say hello. I felt as if every Portlander yesterday was unified in that we were all a little freaked out and amazed by the weather. Sure, some people absolutely love it and others hate it, but all of us were moved by it in one way or another.
2. Severe weather like this affects transportation. How the heck are we supposed to get around in 6 inches of snow? Whether you are car-free, car-light or car-dependent, this particular snow storm, in a city that is not used to snow storms, rendered everyone a little scared and doubtful about how to get around and whether it was worth it at all to go anywhere. My friend Ivonne was stuck in traffic for over 5 hours on the highway yesterday trying to get home. My friend Rujuta got stuck in a snow drift in her car and was helped out by generous passersby. Even the most fierce cyclists were grounded. Ironically, the 45-mile Challenge Route of the Worst Day of the Year bike ride, which marks the worst weather day of the year and is scheduled for Sunday, has even canceled due to bad weather. And Hawthorne Street, which is normally bustling with people, even on winter days, was strangely quiet yesterday, as people opted to stay in their cozy homes instead of venturing out on foot. So all of us, regardless of our chosen mode of transportation, have been affected by the snow storm.
3. Weird weather gives us something to talk about and something to relate with each other about. As I mentioned before, this is why we love to talk about the weather when nothing else comes to mind. And severe weather like this is even more on the forefront of everyone’s mind because it refuses to be ignored. When I was able to take my eyes from the window yesterday, I was checking Facebook for updates from my Portland friends about their experiences with this weird winter storm. It’s something we are all experiencing together and it’s really amazing to witness how it affects us in different ways.
4. The best thing about this crazy weather is that it levels the playing field. For the most part, we’re all in the same boat, regardless of income, ideology, personal preferences, style, ambition, background, and whatever else separates us. Unfortunately, severe weather hits the homeless in a way that the rest of us are sheltered from. But I hope that weather events like this make us realize we are all in the same boat (i.e. the same planet), and encourage those of us who are able to to lend a helping hand in these treacherous conditions.
5. Weird weather not only unites people in the same geographical area, it also unites people all over the world. When people were experiencing freak snow storms in Atlanta last week, we were all feeling terrible for those poor school children in buses stuck in traffic overnight. When hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, floods and other extreme weather events happen anywhere in the world, it unites as as a human race because we realize those things could happen to us and our hearts go out to those who are suffering through them. (Thanks to Global Weirding, extreme weather events are likely to happen to us too at one point or another.)
At the end of the day, we aren’t going to save the planet or each other by being self-righteous, pointing fingers and raging against people we don’t agree with. We’re going to save the planet and each other only by understanding the fact that we are all in this together! And weird weather like what we’re experiencing in Portland is a subtle (and sometimes not too subtle) reminder of that.