There are certain words in our language I just can’t get enough of. One of them is “schadenfreude.”
Schadenfreude is that wonderful German phrase stolen by English speakers that loosely translates as the phenomenon in human nature of gaining great pleasure from someone else’s misfortunes. Perhaps like the proverbial schlemiel who chuckles after he inadvertently spills the proverbial boiling hot soup in the lap of the proverbial schlamazel.
Bad weather seems to bring out the schlemiel and the schadenfreude in the best of people, but why I can’t understand. (Of course, I can’t really understand why so many people spend all of their waking moments thinking, talking and worrying about the weather.)
I’m used to my parents-in-law – Midwesterners by DNA, personality and outlook – who have lived in Florida for more than two decades calling us every time we have a flake of snow or other types of inclement weather.
“We heard you got three inches of snow yesterday,” they say every winter, with glee bubbling in their voices. “Over here, it’s 85 degrees. Just gorgeous, beach weather.” (OK, let’s talk more when it’s hurricane season, folks. Then, the phone calls are fewer.)
But I was floored last week when one of my relatives who lives in Arizona tried to contact my house multiple times. I actually thought something major or dramatic was going on in her life but when I returned her call, I quickly surmised that she was merely calling to dwell on the whopping amounts of snow we’ve been lucky enough to get here lately.
“Hi, how’s it going over there? Heard you guys got some snow? Been thinking about you,” she said, barely able to contain her enthusiasm. “Spending a lot of time in the house, eh? No school for the kids, right? Holding up?”
Now let me get this straight: someone is calling to laugh about our meteorological misfortunes who lives in a region where for about three months a year, you can’t go outside after 7 a.m. and before 10 p.m. because you could be burnt to a crisp or succumb immediately from severe heat exhaustion? I seem to remember eating at an outdoor Phoenix bistro about 15 years ago and watching a roof filtration system shoot out spurts of water that evaporated long before they would’ve hit the ground, all to make patrons a little cooler. Now that’s hot!
I’m proud to say I’ve never called my relative during the most sweltering months of the “Grand Canyon State’s” summers, and I’d like to propose here that our General Assembly legislators officially outlaw “Weather Schadenfreude.” They would be providing a great service for those of us who simply want to get through Mother Nature’s occasional challenges – be they blizzards, snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes or the 17-year cycle of Cicada invasions – without the snickers of others.
Who’d be laughing then?