The Meteorology Con

I put Christmas lights on my house yesterday, and I could have done it in shorts and a t-shirt. It is the middle of November, by the way. Yesterday was about twenty degrees warmer than the average. Twenty degrees! I’ve never seen anything like this, nor has anybody I’ve spoken with. We might have a warm day now and then in the fall, but this year we skipped autumn all together. I saw bugs crawling around sleepily yesterday that looked a lot like college kids on Sunday morning: “Where am I?” they murmured as they wandered about bumping into things on my driveway. Clearly nature is a little out of whack this year.

I caught a weather report the other day, and the meteorologist was describing the heatwave and how it relates to the mysterious “la nina” weather pattern that was supposed to really sock it to us this year. Evidently, the jet stream took a wrong turn someplace in Canada (no judgement here – anybody who has driven in Manitoba can attest to the fact that the road signs seem to have been designed by a naughty kindergartener with the goal of tricking motorists into a hilarious demolition derby). As a result, we’ve been enjoying summer while the far north has been extra cold. “But change is on its way!” he said ominously, pointing at his weather map. “It’s going to get cold – much colder than normal.”

It was at that point that I totally understood meteorology for the first time in my life. He wasn’t employing some advanced atmospheric computer model developed by brainiac scientists over the course of twenty years, he was employing the classic Tom Peters “under promise, over deliver” strategy urged by every silver-haired business author in the last thirty years.

He was hedging his bets.

After all, if we go from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold, he can say “Don’t blame me, I warned you.” And if he ends up being wrong, he can say “I may be bad at my job, but look how nice it is outside! Get out there and enjoy it!” He wins either way. We’re too busy heading for the door to recognize the Jedi mind trick.

With all this being said, I’m not sure we could handle a meteorologist who was brutally honest. “Your guess is as good as mine,” wouldn’t be much of a weather report. But for the rest of us, I sort of feel like promising and delivering should exist without the adverbs. If you are a good company with a good product, it will go without saying that you are doing everything you can to give your customers more – you don’t need to “engineer” that sentiment by artificially lowering expectations.

I’m ready for winter, but I am disappointed that we fast-forwarded through my favorite season this year. Regardless, I won’t blame the meteorologist if the weather gets ugly. Nor will I give him credit if it stays nice. I’ll just turn the channel to somebody who works hard and gives it to me straight.