Thursday, November 01, 2012

The day that didn’t exist

I’ve frequently talked about the long and expensive flight between New Zealand and the USA, which is the chief reason I seldom visit and why none of my family has visited me here (though several friends have). But one thing I haven’t really talked about is that my life is missing one day because of that very long trip.

On Tuesday, October 31, 1995, I boarded a westbound 747, a United Airlines flight from Chicago to New Zealand by way of Los Angeles. Along the way, I crossed the International Dateline and instead of experiencing a November 1, I jumped to November 2, the day I arrived. So, for me, November 1, 1995 never existed.

People who travel here from the Western Hemisphere lose a day when they cross the International Dateline, but they get it back when they go home. Since I stayed here at my new home, I never got that day back.

Technically, I may have gained and lost that one day several times, since I’ve been back to the US three times since 1995, and I gained and lost days each time. But because I now live in New Zealand, I’m still missing one day out of my life, and November 1, 1995 may as well be that day.

Days, dates and years are all relative, a function of how we perceive time. They’re based on natural cycles of day and night, the moon and of seasons, but when we can easily move around the entire planet in hours, do any of them mean what they used to?

Scientists say travelling at the speed of light would cause horrendous time displacement as the travellers stop ageing while the people left behind grow old. That’s literally a matter of relativity. It’s also something I’ve experienced on a much smaller scale: I've aged one day less than the folks where I was born.

I don’t actually mind missing one day out my life, but I wouldn’t mind getting it back at the very end. A day is a day, after all. Actually, I think this November 1, 2012 exists… can I be sure?

The image at the top of this post is a royalty-free photo by Dean Jenkins, and is available from morgueFile.


Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, Arthur, you're TIMELESS!

Arthur Schenck said...

We'll see if that's the case when I have a few more kilometres on the clock…