rain and schadenfreude

Yesterday marked a full month without a clear, sunny day in the DC Metro area. According to Virginia state climatologist Pat Michaels, as interviewed in the Washington Post, Monday, April 28, “was the last day during which an observer could stand anywhere in this region and see blue skies with less than 30 percent cloud cover.” May typically offers an average of seven clear days and highs of 75 degrees; this May has seen zero clear days and average highs of 68 degrees. The average year sees 36 clear days by May 28; this year we’ve had 17. Rain is falling outside my window right now, and cloudy skies and rain continue in the forecast for the next nine days.

Psychiatrist and Georgetown professor Norman Rosenthal, who first researched Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) twenty years ago, noted that the prolonged gray weather can create a situation where “[t]here’s a lack of energy, a lack of get-up-and-go, and we have a tendency to oversleep, overeat on sweets and starches. People withdraw from friends and family and have difficulty concentrating.” So that’s why I’ve been so asocial and unproductive. Uh-huh… yeah… and we went in for the weapons of mass destruction.

And it seems to be the topic of conversation everywhere. In every meeting I attended at work today, people talked about the rain, the clouds, and how tired of it they all are.

Personally, I like rain. And I love the cooler temperatures they’ve brought; sleeping at night with my windows and balcony door open is a delight, as the smell of rain and the tang of ozone and the crisp breezes ease my sleep. Even so, I’m so very ready for a change… I feel like I’m growing moss.

The other ubiquity in my life this month is the word schadenfreude. Not having noticed it used particularly frequently before, I first recently noticed it in a commentary by Michael Kinsley (washingtonpost.com) and then cropping up more and more after William Bennett’s gambling habit was reported upon at the beginning of May.

Yesterday, there it was again in one of the books I’m currently reading, Candace Bushnell’s 4 Blondes, and today my boss used it in referring to some interdepartmental relationships and issues.

So a Google News search on the term just now turned up eight pages of results, including a number of articles continuing to use it in reference to those who reported about Bennett’s habit, but also in reference to media baron Conrad Black in today’s The Scotsman, the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy in today’s (Maryland) SunSpot.net, yesterday’s Boston Globe piece on the Jayson Blair scandal, and even the amusingly vilified U.K. entry in the Eurovision Song Contest (Helsingin Sanomat).

There are even at least a couple of blogs named Schadenfreude: one and two. So… is taking delight in the misfortune of others just part of the human condition, or can we blame it on the rain?

One thought on “rain and schadenfreude

  1. Ahh, SAD, the bane of my existence in college, up North. I found the further South I moved, the better it got. I can’t imagine the days are that much longer in the South, but nonetheless, it’s now under control and my symptoms in the southern winters are mild, if present at all.

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