More reliable than the weatherman

When I was growing up on the East Side of Bridgeport, there was an ancient Italian woman in the neighborhood named Serafina, who looked like she could have been Julius Caesar’s homecoming queen.

She wore a gold horn around her neck to keep away evil spirits and encyclopedia salesmen, back before we had Wikipedia. When she wasn’t warding off vampires or burying fig trees, her greatest talent was her flawless ability to forecast the weather through some mystical interaction between changes in the troposphere and her bunions, which were so gnarled and scabby they looked like alligator skin and made grown men scream in terror.

While I’m not exactly sure how her bunions communicated meteorological data, I do know that every morning the women on Sherman Street would ask her whether it was going to rain or snow or tornado, and she was always right — long before the Weather Channel provided radar maps and 24-hour forecasts that are, despite their excruciating detail, usually wrong.

I thought of her recently because in a strange twist of fate, I’ve developed similar talents. Even though I don’t have bunions, my knees have started aching when there’s a change in the air, and they told me a blizzard was brewing even before Al Roker.

I’m not a meteorologist or an orthopedic surgeon, but I figured there had to be a scientific explanation, so I did some research on the Internet, which is generally a reliable source of misinformation, and concluded it’s probably due to changes in barometric pressure or fluctuations in my 401(k).

At the office, my colleagues often pull me aside and ask, “Do the knees ache?”

If I nod yes, they run to the office manager and say, “We have reason to believe snow is on the way. When are you closing the office?”

To which she responds: “The sun is out, and it’s 50 degrees.”

Nevertheless, I plan to start marketing my services on the train platform, where I can make a few easy bucks like those guys at Goldman Sachs.

“So, Joe, what do your knees say today? Showers, another blizzard, a drought?”

I bend one knee and promptly announce: “Cloudy with a 30% chance of precipitation and winds out of the southwest at 10 to 20 mph.”

“That’s all? We could have gotten that from AccuWeather!”

To justify my hefty fee, I touch the other knee like a Ouija board and then turn to the assembled commuters and predict: “The Dow will drop 60 points. … Sarah Palin will take the Iowa straw poll. … King’s Speech will win three Oscars. … The train’s gonna be 16 minutes late. … And your wife (I point to the guy named Nicolo in a Canali suit) will burn the braciole.”

The crowd starts cursing and refuses to pay my fee, so I hobble off the platform in disgrace. As it turns out, the Dow is up 102 points and for the first time in recorded history, the train is early. But the Northeast is buried in 14 inches of white stuff.


Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]

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