I’ve never been very good at small talk.
At parties, you are most likely to find me in the kitchen trying to spend a lot of time deciding between different kinds of sandwich. A well-placed fruit platter can add a couple of minutes to this process, and also opens opportunities to discuss seasonal fruits with fellow kitchen dwellers (KDs).
It’s lucky for me that I live in Victoria, Australia, where if all other topics of conversation fail, I can rely on one that is foolproof. I mean other than seasonal fruits.
My dad, who arrived here about thirty years ago from the USA, has always said he can’t believe how often Victorians discuss the weather. We talk about the weather so much that even questions that don’t specifically related to it, do. “What’s it going to be like on the weekend?” really means “what is the weather doing on the weekend?”. “It’s going to be nice tomorrow” isn’t a statement about one’s love of Wednesdays. Imagine where we’d all be if we had no rain, hail or shine to discuss. We’d be endlessly awkward and conversationless. We’d be clogging kitchens everywhere.
When I was little, I clearly remember most summer-weather small talk revolving around what seemed to me to be the unicorn of the summer season: the cool change.
For those who don’t know (and by this I mean dad’s sisters: the only people reading this who live outside of a 100km radius of me and my computer), a ‘cool change’ is the point in a summer day when a breeze lifts from the ocean and blows on over to your place, dropping the temperature by a few degrees. The climatic equivalent of comic relief.
It’s the point in the day that you get to stop surviving and start living. Once the cool change comes through, you are free to do all the tasks that somehow seemed unmanageable and unrealistic before: watering plants, cooking dinner, strolling down the street or getting out of your chair. When I got old enough to drive it meant going to the beach for an evening swim. The specific time of it's arrival is endlessly discussed throughout the day, though it normally arrives about dinner-time (presumably for a free meal).
Maybe talking about the weather is the conversational equivalent of a cool change. Something that brings comfort and ease. Something that makes really horrible, tedious exchanges manageable.
And if that fails...
you can always go to find some more sandwiches.