Weathering weathermen ain’t easy
In the beginning, God created Weatherman and endowed him with just enough ability to almost always incorrectly guess what tomorrow's weather would be. Then, taking a rib and a map pointer from Weatherman, He created Weatherwoman, whose powers of climate-related prophesy were not much better, but she was more perky, and thus more fun to watch.
Verily, Weatherman and Weatherwoman mysteriously evolved into one generic life form called "meteorologist," a designation curiously unrelated to meteors. (Well, maybe not completely. An early meteorologist, upon seeing a meteor the size of Madagascar smash into the Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula 60 million years ago, correctly predicted "partly scattered dinosaurs and a 55 percent chance of an ice age. Overcoat and umbrella recommended.")
Apparently, the main reason for the creation of the term "meteorologist" was to render all weathermen, weatherwomen and weatherperson jokes and witticisms null and void. (Bob Dylan, for instance, never said, "You don't need a meteorologist to know which way the wind blows.")
It was the spotty track record of weather predictions that led to an entire genre of jokes about those who attempted to predict the weather, such as, "A weatherman and weatherwoman walk into a train. They didn't see that coming either."
But the term "meteorologist" just isn't funny, and it's hard to pronounce after a few beers. ("A priest, a rabbi and a meteorgalisticulist, I mean, a metaphorical, er, a metrosexualologist ... aw, forget it.") So there are few meteorologist jokes.
The last truly funny weatherman jokes came from comedian George Carlin's "Hippy Dippy Weatherman," who reported "Tonight's forecast: Dark. With continued dark until partly scattered light in the morning. We see that overnight our low was 35. The high was 215 degrees. That was during a fire at the weather bureau." You'll note that the venerable Carlin, though he continues to perform despite being 127 years old, has never had to update that bit.
Despite satellites, sophisticated computer programs and masters degree university courses in the science/voodoo of weather predicting, there continues to be a somewhat ironic aspect to weather prognostication. It's almost as if God wants to emphasize that no matter how smarty-pants humans become, he still has control over the Xbox weather generator.
So it was not surprising that meteorologists failed to predict the crazy hurricanes that ravaged the southern United States two years ago and made every parent who had named their child "Katrina" regret it. To make up for that minor oversight and hoping to improve their box scores, meteorologists predicted something like 47 named hurricanes and 13 anonymous ones for this summer in Florida and adjacent states.
Summer's now gone, and the South suffered, I believe, one hurricane that had maximum winds of a breathless lounge singer and several slightly overcast days. See? That's the irony of it. The meteorologists miss predicting Katrina and then predict a veritable plethora of horrific hurricanes next season that never happen.
Which brings us finally to the point of this treatise on weather predictions. I think it was about three weeks ago that I happened to be watching the national cable news and a meteorologist said that because the el Nino phenomenon was so weak this year off the coast of Mexico, we'ums here in the Pacific could expect a dry winter. It caused the hair to stand up on the back of my neck and other places we can't talk about. Was he insane? Why would anyone put such a curse on our state in such a flippant manner? Does he not know irony? Is he not familiar with the term "bachi?" (Bachi, for visitors to the Islands, refers to the metaphysical phenomenon of causing something bad to happen by saying it won't happen. Such as, "Nothing exciting ever occurs in this theater, Mrs. Lincoln.")
So when half the hillside above the Pali Tunnels slid down, blocking the highway the other day after three soaking days of rain, I, for one, was not surprised. As soon as the mainland meteorologist said we were in for a dry winter, I knew there was a good chance that we might all need snorkels and diving gear before Thanksgiving.
As I was manning my sump pumps and slogging through the rain at 4 this morning, trying to determine in which direction my house would eventually float away, I began contemplating the whimsical history of weather prediction. Surely we would all be better off if weathermen, weatherwomen and meteorologists employed reverse-bachi and confined themselves to predicting the impending arrival of tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons, lightning storms, floods, blizzards and falling meteors.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org