It’s cold. It’s hot. It’s rainy. It’s humid. Gripe, gripe.
“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it!” That quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, but some assert it was actually written by his collaborator, Charles Dudley Warner.
Who said it really doesn’t matter, because they were both wrong. In fact, yours truly and a couple of teenage cronies did, indeed, try to change the weather.
It wasn’t a particularly cold February Saturday evening when we drifted out of Chuck Wagon, the Texas wiener joint that served as a hangout for the lost youth of the day. It was 29 degrees. We knew this because that’s what the temperature said on the sign for the bank a block up from the Chuck Wagon.
As the digital array of lights alternated between the time and temperature, we observed a small metal bar mounted on the bottom of the sign. Being the near-honor students we were, we deduced that the metal bar might be the sensor that determines the temperature that would be displayed on the sign, and it further occurred to us that if we could change the conditions around the sensor, we could change that indication.
“I wish I had my lighter,” said one of our advanced placement collaborators. “What if we just gripped it with a bare hand?”
Having the highest reach, I was elected to conduct the experiment. I stretched up as high as I could and made contact. I wasn’t electrocuted, so that was a good start. The others watched: 29…29…29…30…31! It was working!
I held on, partly because of our success, and partly because my hand was brieﬂy frozen to the metal. The temperature displayed continued to rise and ﬁnally leveled oﬀ at about 73 degrees. Wow, we had changed the weather.
Just then a police car rolled up. It was Kenny, a cop from the neighborhood who knew us all too well.
“What the hell are you doing?”
My rapier-sharp wit failing to produce a witty response, we didn’t have much choice other than to describe our science project. He was somewhat impressed but pointed out to us that (a) we were on private property, and what we were doing could be construed as vandalism, and (b) from a safety standpoint, it’s important for drivers to be aware when the temperature is hovering around freezing.
We agreed, and within a minute or two, the indication returned to the real temperature. No harm done. Or so I thought.
I was about to learn that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.
The next morning, I thought my neck and entire right side had been nailed in place. The slightest movement of my neck caused excruciating pain. My father brought me to the emergency room where I was asked if I’d had any unusual physical activity recently.
Why, yes, as a matter of fact. I had to own up to the weather experiment of the previous evening. Apparently standing in the cold with one’s arm stretched beyond its normal range of use for an extended period will do that to you. They put me in a neck collar and told me to stay out of the cold for a few days.
But to this day, when somebody complains about the weather, at least I can say I tried to do something about it.
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.