Every year at about this time, I find myself unable to leave the weather app on my smart phone alone. I check it obsessively to determine what fresh hell will descend on southeastern New Brunswick just in time to ruin a planned trip to visit one my kids or, indeed, a largely unplanned getaway to a sunny destination.
For this reason, most winters here along the East Coast of Canada have been misery to me. Ruminating about what’s coming does nothing to ameliorate the dread of. . .well. . .knowing that the universe thinks weather apps, and those who trust them, are robotic idiots.
Exactly 12 months ago, my wife and I sojourned for 10 days in Charlottetown, tending our grandchildren while our daughter and son-in-law vacationed in Costa Rica.
“No problem,” I gamely offered to my beloved of 35 years. “My weather app says the days in these parts should be cold, but beautiful.”
“That’s good to know,” she who must be obeyed replied. “We are going to spend all of our time outside, making snowmen and snow forts with cups of hot chocolate to keep us warm.”
It sounded idyllic. And so, with visions of ice angels dancing in our heads, we hit the road from Moncton. Two days later, the news, courtesy of the CBC had this to say:
“People in Prince Edward Island are being asked by the province to stay home if possible today after a blizzard dumped a record 86.8 centimetres of snow at Charlottetown Airport on Sunday and Monday. The mainland was cut off from P.E.I. for more than a day and a half, as Confederation Bridge was closed at 4:50 p.m. Sunday and didn’t reopen until 7:20 a.m. Tuesday. General manager Michel LeChasseur told CBC News this may be the longest the bridge has been closed to all traffic since it opened in 1997.
Ahem. . .so much for my vaunted weather app. Still, I check it. I just can’t seem to help myself.
So it was the other day – whilst happily trolling through the long-range forecasts for Los Angeles; London, England; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Guysborough County, Nova Scotia – I landed on Moncton.
There, I saw how gentle the temperatures would be in late February, how mild the predicted snowfall was. Then, I came upon a report for March 4: Thirty-five-to-forty-five centimetres of the white stuff with at least 15 more the following day. What?
I immediately phoned a tech-savvy friend and demanded an explanation.
“You know I actually have a job,” he began, alluding to the fact that he was at work and that I am a lowly freelancer who prefers to scribble in his “leisure suit” between bouts of weather-induced paranoia.
“Sure, sure,” I conceded, “but what do you make of this forecast? I mean, how can they know 14 days in advance what’s going to happen in my backyard?”
One word, he said: “Algorithms . . .The less snow that falls in any given winter, the more snow gets computer modelled and pushed to the end of the year. It’s math, boy, simple math.”
That, I protested, doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I declared, “It’s not fair.”
No, it’s not, he sighed. “Neither is the fact that you’re an idiot.”
I went back to my weather app and found that the forecast had changed again. It would be, after all, much milder and gentler. Crisis averted. Paranoia mitigated. All’s right with the world again. Thank you, weather app.
It’s funny how I never do this in the middle of summer.