This week it was in the middle of a meeting when it snuck up on me. Somewhere in between the variance tab and the actual spend and the budget columns, the word “Forecast” rolled off someone’s tongue right into the pit of my stomach. If there ever is a word I absolutely detest, it is ‘forecast’. I even hate the shop named Forecast ‘cause nothing ever fits me there.
While it was my form 5 chemistry teacher in high school who first forecasted just before she flung my chemistry lab book out of the laboratory door that I would be a ‘nothing’ in life, I think my real affair started with the word when I took my first IELTS test. If you’re sitting for the Academic version of the test, then you’ll be given these ridiculous graphs and pie charts showing something like the number of Big Macs consumed by Australian teenagers in the past 10 years and you’d have to analyse that in a 100 words or less. That one word – Forecast, did the same job as a whole sentence (roughly 15 words) would to describe the future. Hence one had no choice but to go deeper into Australia’s obesity problem while taking the test in Rwanda to make up the 100.
Someone at The International English Language Testing System must have also forecasted and determined (not sure based on exactly what) that these test results can only be valid for 2 years after which the language would evaporate from the brains of non-English speakers. Hence they would need to do the test again. I’ve taken the test 4 times over the last 2 decades to prove my competency and I still score the lowest in the writing section. And I am a writer. So that just might mean either that’s a shitty test system or I’m a shitty writer!
Ironically I also used to be an English teacher once upon a time. (Incase you haven’t figured it out yet, my whole life is an irony). An influx of new IELTS students to the centre where I was teaching meant filling in for new IELTS instructors. One was asked to attend an IELTS training workshop to see if I could do the job. Halfway through the day, we came to the graph writing section. The trainer prompted for sentences so that she could demonstrate how to teach that format. Her hand hovered on the board after she said wrote the words “This graph…” when the group of teachers became quiet for a bit too long, there in it’s horrible-ness the word “forecast” slipped out of my mouth. “Fooooorecast”. As if the heaven beams shot out of my imaginary wings and the instructor looked at me as if she had found the lost one. I was promptly promoted to IELTS instructor from General English (I didn’t even have to go back to complete my training the next day) and to no less than to an elite adult class of Turkish lawyers, doctors and professionals. The thing was I knew jack shit and the only reason I was in that situation in the first place was because of that godforsaken word! Gods of Language bear witness how I winged those days.
Though what I don’t get about Sydney-siders is how seriously they take their weather forecasts. Ever since moving to Sydney, I’d rock up to work wearing something entirely opposite of everyone on that day. As I sat stripping the layers off, one colleague in her short sleeves asked “mate don’t you see the weather in the mornings?”. Ummm no. Because where I come from, they don’t get it right. Every cyclone season in Fiji, either we over prepare and lock down an entire country for a category 1 cyclone or forget to issue a warning for a category 5 with potential to be classified as a hurricane. Fiji is supposedly sinking but we don’t really have a forecast exactly when. So no I don’t see the Sydney weather in the mornings and I refuse to go into work with a singlet and sandals on, carrying a cardigan for mid-day and an umbrella and boots for the evening rush home. Nooo.
Though one forecasts I do terribly miss is Jonathan Cainer’s. I haven’t really found another horoscope column I read as religiously after he passed away. It wasn’t as if Jonathan’s forecasts were overly optimistic but they always had this elderly grown-up reassurance that no matter how fucked up it all got, life would be okay in the end.
I think what I really don’t like about forecasts of any kind is that it’s sheer bullshit. So much of money, energy and time is spent on trying to test, analyse, predict a possible event or trend in the future that might or might not happen. And if you’re an over-thinker like me, that’s also a waste of hundreds of hours worrying about something that you have no idea how it’ll pan out.
Sometimes despite the predictions and the best of our preparedness, we still get caught in the rains. This week if your horoscope forecasts it and you do actually get wet, so be it.