Tuesday, February 21, 2017
on the road to hong kong
I love the international dateline.
It is one of those legal fictions that keeps travelers from living life as a perpetual groundhog day.
Last night, after a fine late dinner of caviar and stir-fried lobster, the flight attendant put me in my pajamas and tucked me into my bed. Somewhere in the very early morning, what was once Tuesday turned into Wednesday. Just by crossing an imaginary line. The same fiction that won Phileas Foggs’s wager.
But, then, aren’t most of the numbers that punctuate our lives merely constructs? What does a dog care if our clocks tell us it is 5 AM or 1 PM?
Animals are not creatures of time. Certainly, they have their own cycles. But theirs mean very little to us -- unless those cycles intersect with our own. So, it is a fair trade -- each species living within its own fiction of reality. Like an interspecies Canada.
On this trip, I am surrounded by manufactured reality. Some very prosaic -- arrival and departure times, gate numbers, seat assignments. Others more poetic -- longitude, latitude, and the personification of the shadows in Plato’s cave: the international date line.
Even though my seat converts into a very comfortable bed, I did not get much sleep last night yesterday. I woke up as we were flying over Japan at 2:54 AM Wednesday (local time), 1:54 AM (Hong Kong time), and 10:54 AM Tuesday (Los Angeles time). All of them rather meaningless times to my confused circadian clock that feels as if it has been too tightly wound.
Just because the dateline is a fiction does not mean the time shift will not affect me. And not just because my sleep cycle has been processed through a Waring blender.
I have been quite faithful in my daily Spanish lessons on Duolingo. When I left Los Angeles, I was on a 163 day streak. (My earlier 368 day streak was broken when I helped a friend sign into a drug rehabilitation center.)
As a result of my now-missing Tuesday, the streak will be reset to “0.” It will be an incentive for me to build it up again.
The missing day (and the time shift) will also throw off my medication schedule. My two medications are not time sensitive. Nor will missing a cycle be life-threatening. But it is a nuisance. A small one, admittedly.
So, here I sit, eating my breakfast of congee and drinking green tea, spending the last three hours of this fourteen hour trip keeping in touch with you.
Of course, I am not keeping in touch with you directly. For all of its amenities, this Boeing 777 does not have an internet connection. If I had flown on an Airbus 350, I could be writing to you in real time.
If all goes well, I can post this piece in Hong Kong before I get on my flight to Sydney -- another nine hours of flying, but after I take a shower at Cathay Pacific's lounge. If all does not go well, I will be writing to you from Sydney in the late evening.
Wednesday evening. Or so the international dateline informs me.