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Weathering the forecast for rain


We regret to inform you we are unable to bring you the weather report from the airport, which is closed because of the weather. Whether we are able to bring you the weather tomorrow depends on the weather.

-- Arab News, quoted by Stephen Pile in "The Book of Heroic Failures."

MY WIFE worships at the Temple of the Five-Day Forecast. Willard Scott is her bishop, Bob Turk her local priest and prophet. She greets reports from the National Weather Service with the deference devout Catholics accord to papal encyclicals.

My spouse rises early every morning, quickly drinks her coffee and turns her attention to the weather map in the morning paper.

"Oh, it's going to rain on Friday," she says on Monday morning, as she glumly scans the five day "Accu-Weather" forecast. She makes this prediction gravely, with the same zeal and surety I imagine John Calvin having when he mounted the steps of his 16th century Geneva pulpit to tell his followers that God already had consigned most of them to eternal damnation.

By the time Friday rolls around, there's hardly a cloud in the sky, but my wife is far too worried about the following Wednesday's forecast to notice that Accu-Weather was not so accurate after all.

With the weather we've been having in Baltimore this summer, my wife's morning pronouncements have taken on a more urgent character. They have acquired the air of an apocalyptic visionary anxiously studying the Book of Revelation to decide whether to invest in another five-day deodorant pad.

Over the past several months my wife has become a kind of barometric Nostradamus. On Tuesday morning she wanders around the house muttering to herself, "High in the low 90s for church on Sunday . . . I guess we should still go . . . what do you think?"

Recently I have begun keeping score on how well the folks at the "Accu-Weather" five-day are doing. I concluded they are right only about half the time. When I pointed out this fact to my wife, however, she displayed all the skepticism of those retirees who sent their Social Security checks to Orals Roberts a few summers ago so God would not "take him home."

"Yes honey," she replied earnestly, "but there's a 40 percent chance of rain next Thursday for Owen's little league practice."

I can't help thinking there is a kind of hubris in all this that I just can't muster. Perhaps it has something to do with my skepticism about the sign that stood outside my Catholic grade school for decades: "Bingo Thursday Night." I used to worry that maybe that sign was tempting fate just a little too much. I could imagine God on his lofty throne looking down at the sign and proclaiming, "Oh yeah, well we'll just see about that."

But my wife brings me back from my metaphysical reverie: "Do you think we should cancel the July 4th picnic?" she inquires on June 30. "It's supposed to rain."

Not satisfied with the degree of prescience offered by the five-day forecast, she came home from work the other evening with a "Farmer's Almanac" tucked under her arm. She has been looking for new ways to extend her vision of world weather patterns into the future.

"The heat's going to last clear into October," she says gravely, glancing up from the almanac.

"No kidding," I reply, catching the spirit of the moment. "I think we better cancel Halloween."

Stephen Vicchio teaches philosophy at the College of Notre Dame. His most recent collection of essays is "Ordinary Mysteries," published by Wakefield Editions.

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