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GEORGE'S POND: Weather-Obsessed

author: George Smith   illustrator: Lee Rapp

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MY KIDS THINK I’M A BIT DAFT. I suspect Joy does too, but she’s less vocal about it. Honestly, I’m not sure they’re wrong.

This is all about weather. I’m obsessed. I check the forecast maybe a dozen times a day starting when I pick up my iPad and log onto Environment Canada even before my morning coffee. If that were the end of it, no problem, but it’s just the beginning. If we’re driving anywhere out-of-town, I’ll also have to check conditions wherever we’re headed and all points in between.

Even if I am a little barmy, I’m far from alone. According to those who keep track of such things, Environment Canada is the most visited government website in the land, but my nearest and dearest say I take it to an entirely different level. The serenity to accept the things I cannot change is one gift I have not been granted.

Winter is the worst. It may be only October, but if I have a mid-December medical appointment in, say, Toronto or Peterborough, that’s a command performance and I start fretting immediately. It’s not-toss-and-turn-all-night worrying. Just something that simmers away on the back burner.

Then, if the seven-day forecast looks iffy as we near the date, I get really antsy. Sometimes, I think the damage caused by all that stress is worse than whatever health concern led to my appointment in the first place. There really is such a thing as too much information.

Summertime offers respite from the snow and ice but comes with its own brand of weather concerns. A big part of that is fishing. An old friend and I try to get out on Rice Lake in my little tin boat at least once a week. But I’m a chicken sailor. “Oh, is that a whitecap over there? Better head back to the dock.”

So where does reasonable caution end and irrational fear begin? Sensibly, a lightning forecast automatically trumps any plans we may have made. But wind is more likely to be the fly in the ointment. Velocity, of course, comes into the picture, but if it isn’t too bad and is coming from the right direction, we can always park ourselves in the lee of some island. Otherwise, we’ll just stay home and live to fish another day.

One of the most maddening things for this weather-obsessed guy is the variability of the forecasts provided by different weather agencies. Can’t those people agree on anything? Who to believe? At one time, Environment Canada was my weather bible. But the infidels in my family got me searching such sites as the Weather Network, the Weather Channel, Weather Underground and MSN Weather. I shouldn’t have listened to them. Eventually, I found myself checking multiple sources multiple times a day and they seldom agreed. It’s like researching a medical condition. It’s hard not to go overboard. Let’s get a second opinion. Maybe a third or a fourth. Pretty soon, you don’t know what to think. So not only was I nutty for checking the weather that often, I was going even nuttier trying to figure out who to believe.

Now, this could be my imagination. I have no documentation to support my thesis, but it seems to me that Environment Canada has, in recent months, begun issuing more special weather statements, advisories, watches and warnings than ever before.

The alerts encompass a range of meteorological events ranging from blizzards, freezing rain and wind chill to thunderstorms, heatwaves, floods and tornadoes.

Listen, I am not an ingrate. I appreciate the government’s efforts to ensure my safety. And even if I do avoid being zapped by an errant lightning bolt, I still need to be aware of air quality. But what do I do if it soars to 7°C? Stay shut in my bedroom until it reverts to 3°C? And if the poisonous air doesn’t get me, I have the UV index to worry about. Anything over 2°C calls for a thick layer of sunscreen. Now, even that old silver bullet defence against the sun’s harmful rays is getting a lot of negative press. Bad for my body and bad for the environment. It seems that venturing out-of-doors is really just a choice between being asphyxiated by foul air or whisked away to join Dorothy and Toto in the Land of Oz.

The one thing I know for certain is that reading every detail of the weather just adds to my already robust sense of paranoia. I know Environment Canada means well and, for all its shortcomings, I’ve concluded that it really is the premier source of weather information and my best bet to preserve whatever shred of sanity I’ve managed to retain.

I don’t know if I qualify as a weather addict but scouring every nook and cranny of the internet for the most minute details of the weather is a hard habit to break. But now I’m done with all those other guys and back exclusively with my old tried and true. I’ll live or die by what Environment Canada tells me. I’ve gone cold turkey. I’m determined. If I can get this monkey off my back, maybe I’ll be able to convince my family that I’m not mad after all. Just a tad eccentric.

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