A recent study conducted by the University of Calgary’s sociology department has brought to light a shocking secret about Calgarians: we actually like our city’s unpredictable and miserable winter weather.
This finding flies in the face of years and years of resident testimonials professing a love for warm, mild weather. Desiring to appear normal and sane in the eyes of society, Calgarians have long put up a summer-loving façade. After all, who could ever love someone who took joy in frozen nostrils and parking lots of brown slush? But this citywide cover-up was not without its cracks. Indeed, it was the unseasonably warm weather this fall that first raised the suspicion of principal researcher Maria Invierno. Although Calgarians appeared to be enjoying the sunshine and falling leaves, engaging in activities such as long walks, picnics and backyard parties, Invierno began to sense an underlying tension.
“The most obvious sign was the frenetic attire,” Invierno explained. “People could be seen at every street corner wearing deeply confused combinations of ski jackets, cut-off shorts and Uggs, often with a wild gleam in their eyes.”
The clothing, however, proved to be only the tip of the iceberg. With a bit of digging, Invierno was able to identify the heart of the problem.
“With some preliminary interviews, I began to realize that our city’s very social fabric was centered on its consistently abysmal weather. I began to realize that it’s our mutual suffering that ties us together,” she said.
Looking at the relationships in the workplace, for instance, Invierno discovered that 96 per cent of all conversations were initiated by or focused on some negative aspect of the weather. Invierno went so far as to classify remarks about frigid temperatures, excessive snow and nightmarish driving conditions as foolproof conversation starters. Additionally, those who regularly and dramatically highlighted the poor driving skills of others also tended to be the most popular in the office. Contrary to most social interactions, when it comes to the weather, it seems the more pessimistic you are, the better.
Our dependence on crappy weather runs deeper than small talk, however. In terms of romantic relationships, Invierno found that nearly half of couples in her sample reported initially bonding over bad weather. Whether it was a slippery sidewalk, a stalled car or a lost pair of mittens, the ugly winters in Calgary have served as a matchmaker for many. One Calgarian woman Invierno interviewed, Claire Harmon, provided further insight.
“That was the longest month of my life. I was so glad when it snowed!” Harmon exclaimed, referring to 2013’s remarkably mild October. “Finally, my husband and I had something to talk about again! I mean, you can only discuss the lovely blue sky for so long.”
Harmon seemed unperturbed by the fact that she and her husband appeared to have nothing in common beyond a propensity to complain about the snow.
“I don’t see it as a problem as long as we stay in Calgary,” she said cheerfully. “Besides, it’s really the only opinion my husband can express that doesn’t make me want to scratch his eyes out. So why question that? We always agree that the weather sucks, or that if it doesn’t suck yet, it will soon enough.”
On the matter of future research, Invierno hopes to expand her research to other cities in Alberta, and even Canada, to see if this affinity for terrible weather is a uniquely Calgarian phenomenon.