Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What's Your Headline of Choice?

Last night was one of those rough, sleepless nights again.  This time it's not because of a sick or restless child (thank God!).  Neither was it due to 'intimacy', if you know what I mean.  Rather, it was courtesy of this crazy weather we've all been experiencing in North America (and possibly worldwide). Frankly, I can never figure out which season we're REALLY currently in.  Last time I checked, it was still winter and then all of a sudden, we get a high of almost 72 degrees F.  And then back to low 40's the next day.  This non-stop cooling and heating and back and forth makes the conditions extremely ripe for tornadoes.  Being in the South, I have now accepted this and just continue to thank God that Middle Tennessee hasn't been all that bad at least since we've moved.  (Did I just really type that I accepted something? resistance?.....Wow!  See!  There is always hope for change!)

Anyway, late last night and very early this morning, our weather alert radio kept issuing warnings.  The loud alarm was annoying but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I think I would be even more anxious and won't allow myself to doze off, not even for one minute, if I knew that I'd have to be completely alert to try to hear the sirens outside.  With modern houses being efficiently sealed, I've always found that to be a challenge, so having this noisy but alert radio in our room is an annoyance I welcome. 

I think it started before midnight.  At first it was a tornado watch.  I kind of ignored it because I had already heard from the 10 pm news that the storm would hit our area between 3 and 4 a.m.  I went back to sleep.  Or at least tried to.  Then at around 2 a.m. if I'm not mistaken, the alarm was set off again now announcing that the 'watch' has turned into a 'warning'.  My husband did't want to go to our safe room yet as he felt the storm was still quite far from our location.  I agreed and we turned on the television to get updates on the storm's movement.  By 3 a.m.  I was pretty sure the storm was getting closer and the sirens outside were heard once again so I carried my son and proceeded to our safe place.  We were there until 4 a.m. when the radar showed the storm finally leaving our city. After that, my boys were still able to fall back to sleep.  As expected, I pretty much just tossed and turned until 6:45 when it was time to finally get up.

Exciting times huh?  This is why in this country, people can really make small talk out of the weather.  You can pretty much break the ice by discussing how beautifully sunny it is outside, or how you suddenly had to bundle up for the day.  If you want to seem friendly to a stranger, just start your greeting with "Can you believe how _______ it is today?"  Feel free to supply that with whatever crazy thing the weather decided to do that day.

I had to learn all this, this skill of making a headline out of the weather.  It's like a greeting, isn't it?  Where I come from (the Philippines), other than the usual 'hi' or 'hello', another common greeting is "Kumain ka na?" ('ku-ma-in-ka-na?) (Translate:  Have you eaten?)  Non-Filipinos might find this strange and even quite intrusive but it really isn't meant to be that way.  Rather, I think it's a reflection of our love for food and our caring nature.  Because if you really haven't eaten, then you can expect to be genuinely invited to a meal or at least be offered something to eat, no matter how unimpressive or simple.  Don't get me wrong.  You won't find strangers asking you this question. Rather, this is reserved for people who know each other, even between mere acquaintances....maybe a co-worker, or someone you see fairly regularly but not necessarily have close relations with.  It really doesn't make sense to talk about the weather so much in the Philippines given that we only have 2 seasons:  wet and dry.  Temperatures are pretty constant and predictable, and no one's expected to spend so much time figuring out daily outfits because chances are, it's going to be the same, day in and day out.  (I must say though, I still can't forget that one day in the university, in the early 90s, when I saw a guy walking in the hallways wearing a trench coat and flip flops.  It was close to 90 degrees F, mind you.)

I find it interesting how people choose to fill dead air in conversations.  I'm sure the choice has to be something everyone can relate to and something that can't possibly get too personal or has very little potential for giving away personal details.  

Where you're from, what do you notice are the most common small talk topics or ice breakers?  Or if you had your way, what do you think would be an amazing alternative for filling dead air between acquaintances?

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