Time Out of Joint

Samoa Cancels Its
Last Friday of the Year

Marking the passage of time is, of course, a human invention. As it conceives reality as a straight line, at the end of the day, all it does is to get our clocks hopelessly out of synch.
But even acknowledging such an impossibility of measuring time with accuracy, it’s even more unsettling when someone decides to skip it. That’s what the good people of Samoa have decided: there won’t be Friday today on the island.
Which means that today is already tomorrow in that tiny speck of land in the South Pacific. And that if someone is born as we speak, his or her birth certificate will be a lie shared by seven billion fellow humans.
It shouldn’t be such a big deal, as some Amazon tribes, for example, are thought to have no use for the concept of time, days, nights, seasons, on their language and lifestyle. But somehow, we insist, the notion is slightly disturbing.

For truly libertarians and existentialists of all stripes, our arbitrary imposition of a 24-hour cycle is pure fiction. For not even the earth follows the same pattern, and periodically, astrophysicists have to adjust time according to the movement of the stars.
The atomic clock was supposed to settle the issue, as it accurately measures every second several thousand years to the future. But its respectability is challenged everyday by Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Once he showed that there could be no absolute time, for it varies wildly according to the place and speed of the observer, even the most accurate method was deemed, well, not very accurate.
It all boils down to that losing proposition, what if the earth was flat. For many, that would spare us a lot of headaches. Because right there lies the fundamental flaw of trying to measure a curve with a straight line.
Even when wise men of ancient times came up with the Pii number, they were already behind the curve, so to speak. As it turns out, the earth is not a perfect sphere and it’s not even straight in its orientation toward the sun.

Our planet’s progressive inclination undermines any attempt at coming up with a mathematical model that would work on space as it would on paper. Nevertheless, that has never prevented us from flying around and traveling in outer space.
Ah, those rocket science genius and their adjustments. Still, try to tell that to the Samoans, who wish to share the same timezone as their trade partners, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Chinese.
Admit it, that’s a heavyweight bunch most nations wouldn’t hesitate to be friends with.
Besides, it’s not that they’ll risk missing the global premiere of a new HBO series, if they’re even into that sort of thing. Then again, we’re neckdeep into idealized visions of South Pacific people frolicking year round on the beach to really know much about them.

This whole conversation is a moot point for those who will be born February 29 of 2012. That’s right, we’re about to enter another Leap Year, and if you want to know how does it feel to have birthdays every four years, well, just ask someone born in one.
Just don’t ask them the obvious: what the hell is a Leap Year. They’re probably tired of explaining it. What’s the point of telling that the day of your birth is actually an adaptation of our Gregorian Calendar to the earth’s actual rotation around the sun? Leave them alone.
It’s like asking a left-handed person why it’s so hard for them to handle scissors, or how can they write without smudging the page? You just don’t ask those things, that is, unless you want them to run after you with scissors.

Turns out, there is a U.S. state that can’t wait to switch Time Zones: Indiana, which filed a petition last month to have the remaining of its counties moving from Eastern Standard Time to Central time. Just like 12 of the state counties already have.
In fact, Indiana has been unhappy with its lot in the big er allocation of time zones for a long time. We won’t get into much detail here, but basically social-political factors conspire to make the state’s official time inadequate for its needs.
Negotiations continue, but again, we’re back into unsettling territory. There’s no danger of returning to the time, in the 1800s, when states were free to set their own time, according to the position of the sun above.
Things since became considerably more complex, of course. But we’re afraid that now, the biggest reason preventing the much wanted switch has more to do with bureaucracy and fear of disruption than actual technical constrains. As we said, negotiations proceed.

Going back to the sunny sands of the South Pacific, the only thing that seems like a shame is that it’ll be Friday the day of the week to play the chronological sacrificial lamb. How come they missed the chance of killing a Monday? or a Tuesday, for that matter.
These are, of course, concerns that only people like us, deep in the mud of the rat race, would even consider. In other words, there’s no hope that we’ll be able to invoke skipping a weekday like that any time soon, no matter how novel the excuse would sound to your boss.
All and all, while most of us would’ve killed to have an extra weekend day, the almost 200 thousand Samoans don’t seem to mind killing a third of theirs. Looking that way, we got one up on them: we still have 24 hours to spare, before it’s Saturday.
It’s doubtful, though, that a sane, good standing New Yorker would’ve preferred another Friday to live, over the chance of waking up Saturday in a hut in Samoa.

But perhaps the sudden switch would be too much to many. After all, even Hamlet blamed time for his pain of learning about his father’s murder. And Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint story is about someone who can’t handle the perplexing changes happening around him.
So perhaps, not every New Yorker would be a happy camper. Not with sand getting everywhere, the messy sun lotion business, the watered down exotic drinks they serve tourists in these faraway places, and the likelihood of missing the flight connection.
– Hello? Boss? I’m sorry, I can’t make it to work today. You actually won’t believe what happened to me. See, I was in this hut and…

One thought on “Time Out of Joint

  1. Lav Chintapalli says:

    While I understand the concept of creation of clock-time, I am, I have to admit, a bit confused and confuddled by the canceling of a Friday. How does that even happen? So, did the Samoan’s celebrate New Years Day 2012 on Saturday instead of Sunday? Will they forever be out of sync with the rest of the world? Or did they just not have a Dec 30th, for whatever reason? I am amused .. it’s quite cool I think, to ‘cancel’ a Friday!


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