As a palette of gray hues conquered the sky, my phone began to ring. Having touched down in New York less than a week prior, it seemed my initiation into The City would come in the form of a cold front, foreign to my native Australian climate. Family and friends from across the globe warned of the imminent snow storm. Lovingly they inquired into the quality of heating in my new apartment, the robustness of my shoe’s soles and the effectiveness of my coat’s insulation.
With a string of solemn promises to keep myself safe, I assured those who cautioned me, that I had traded in my Sydney sandals for snow boots and vowed to send some snowy snaps, as only a newcomer would.
The streets, serene and the snow, sublime. I peered down from my apartment window and felt as though I should speak in a whisper for it seemed ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ had quietly dozed off beneath the cover of white. Rugged up and well equipped, as I ventured beyond my apartment’s trusted temperature, I found myself astounded, not by the chill in the air but the warmth that ensued.
Moments that are ordinarily shared insignificantly with others, became sacred spaces for cordial exchange. An elevator ride offered murmurs of, “you look like you’re ready for the snow,” or the peek of an empathetic smile beneath a scarf’s edge. A quick trip to the store concluded with the cashier’s greeting to, “stay warm out there,” followed by an audible assortment of thankful expressions to those shoveling the sidewalks.
Conversation quickly traversed from weather to other things. In an encounter at the building’s garbage compactor, I met Chrissy who was nursing a cold and welcomed my wishes for her quick recovery. At the supermarket, the lady serving me explained she bemoaned the cold because fewer people visited the store. She enjoys being busy because she simply loves what she does. Countless conversations turned to inquiries about my life in Australia, as chitchat effortlessly extended a few moments longer than it regularly would.
With extreme weather came an overt commonality that united even perfect strangers in a shared experience. Merely being, meant partaking in a mutual reality, as comrades who, albeit involuntarily, were made to tackle treacherous temperatures together. The temperature’s drop brought about a decrease in the degrees of separation felt between people and broke the ice to allow for connection.
The weather is often berated as the most impersonal topic of conversation, however, I recently learned that therein lies its beauty. When even a commonality as basic as the weather is established between people, a foundation for communication is laid, upon which a palace of human connectivity can be built to extend far beyond the weather.