The Fuzziness of Time Zones. Oh, Yeah, and Tiger Butter.

They took a Friday from us. I’m not sure where they put it.

I’m not annoyed. Really, I’m not. Just a bit fuzzified. Changing time zones does that to me at the best of times, as it were, but at least that gain and loss is usually measured in the low single digits, and any imbalance is relatively speedily restored.

But crossing the International Date Line is time-zone trouble writ, not large, but incomprehensible.

Now, in theory, I understand that the date has to jump ahead at some line on the globe. Otherwise, heading west, we’d just keep getting earlier and earlier until we lapped ourselves, with likely unhappy results. Like Sambo tricking the tigers into chasing each other around a tree so furiously they melted into a puddle of butter which his mother then used for pancakes, apparently undeterred by its furry fuzziness.  

But theory only takes you so far, and in practice, the date line is just weird. Leaving Canada on a Thursday, we arrive in Australia on a Saturday, having flown for only 15 hours. Friday just disappeared.

Throughout our month-long trip, I don’t inquire too closely into which day’s late-night show we’re watching before breakfast, because the answer makes my head want to explode. I can’t make the time change and the day change make sense at the same time. As it were.

Canadians like to take credit for time zones, but I don’t see us lining up to take credit for the date line, and no wonder. Never mind that the one sort of implies the other. That we also apparently deserve some credit for in-line skates is another story.

Anyway, after four weeks of this date befuddlement we head home, arriving in Canada on the same Saturday morning we left Australia, but a few hours earlier. What’s with that?

Now, even though I don’t know where my Friday went, nor where my extra Saturday came from, I’m thinking that understanding should never get in the way of a business opportunity. There are markets for many things I don’t really understand – think carbon offsets.  Heck, think in-line skates.  So why can’t there be a market for days gained and lost across the date line?

So if, after your own international travels, you seem to have an extra Friday kicking around, or be missing a Saturday, give me a call. I’m sure we can work something out.

 

This is the first in a set  of reflections

(a ‘series’ sounding altogether too organized for what’s in my head)

on our recent trip to New Zealand and Australia.

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12 Comments

  1. Welcome back (your body at least)!

    Re missing Fridays — John Benn has the answer. He invented a Personal Time Bank. Every time you wait in line for something, those minutes get deposited in your Time Bank. You can withdrawn that time — at a later date.
    It works just as well as any other method of retrieving time that you perceive is taken from you. If you had opened an account months before you left, you could get back that Friday!

    Just be careful to whom you explain this: I did, once, standing in a loose bank line-up. Unsmiling, the man closed his face & took one step back.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – I’d like an account in John’s bank, please. I assume he’s been granted a federal charter for same, governing his Schedule IV status? A category unaccountably missing from this write-up. As for talking to people in lines, yes, one has to be careful. Or entirely heedless works, too, I guess.

  2. Jim Taylor

    I lost four Traditional Iconoclast articles — will those ever be made up? More seriously, when we flew back from Korea on time, we left Seoul on a Friday evening, arrived in Vancouver on a Friday morning. The customs officer asked Joan when we had left Korea. She looked at her watch and said, “We should be leaving at 6:00 this evening.” He didn’t think it was funny.

  3. Jim Robertson

    Well said Isabel.

    Having crossed that dateline a number of times (I lost count of the days I gained and lost – but I hope it came out even) I should have it figured out, but don’t.

    John’s bank sounds interesting

  4. John Whitman

    Isabel:
    As always, my comments will be on a different slant from the respondents above.
    In these days of political correctness, I was surprised to see a reference to the story of Sambo, something I hadn’t thought of or heard of in years. Sambo was as you know, a children’s story (illustrated book in my case) that was very common (I don’t now dare say popular) back when I was young. And I want you to know that seeing the reference to Sambo just makes me feel old yet again as so many things do these days. However, I can still recall the picture of the tigers going round and round the palm tree with Sambo smiling on, and there is a lot to be said for childhood memories.
    John W

    1. Isabel Gibson

      John – I heard offline from someone else about Sambo – and you’re right, it’s been seen as politically incorrect at best, racist at worst. I always thought it was just a book I had at home (from the library, maybe?) and it may have been – but with comments from an American and a Maritimer, I wonder whether it was on the standard curriculum of the day. If so, the choosers probably saw it as a good opportunity to introduce little kids to other cultures and to highlight a clever child of another colour. My book, too, was illustrated, and the image of those tigers turning themselves into butter (although I admit I remembered it as syrup) as they streaked around the tree was memorable indeed.

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