181 Deg W

Oceans and Seas » Pacific
February 1st 2016
Published: February 1st 2016
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Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 181ºW

Every morning when you go up to breakfast, the little blue rug in the elevator tells you what day it is. At midnight Monday, the rug stewards pick up the Monday rug and put down the Tuesday rug; etc. This is very convenient because one day at sea is very much like another, and people are apt to get confused. However, last night they picked up the Wednesday rug and put down a Friday rug. This prevents the Phineas Fogg confusion of arriving back in London with an extra rotation of the earth beneath you, so that your count of days is one ahead of everybody else in that majestic city. Still, rational as all this is, you can’t help being puzzled at the moment it happens, more or less 180º West of Greenwich. It is as if Thursday falls overboard and sinks in 16,000 feet of water.

It is particularly puzzling that the clocks do not change. At every other time line, you set them back an hour if you are going West, but here you do not. Here it is only the day of the week and the calendar date that skip a beat. This is not some weird shipboard convention; I think we were in sync with the clocks in Raritonga, and after another hour’s change tonight we will be in sync in New Zealand.

None of this helps with my major question: What should I do with my Thursday pills? Perhaps they should have vanished, along with the rest of Thursday. But no, they are quite materially there. Should I skip them or double dose myself? An awkward point of International Law.

When Carol went to change her watch, she found that the poor thing had stopped entirely, rather than submit to this indignity. No watch batteries to be had onboard, she bought a new watch, much better looking I think, for $50, probably the cheapest item in the huge and hugely expensive on-board jewelry store.

I have to correct something I said a few days back. I found Melville’s Typee in the ship’s library and read it. It is short; I got through it in a day and a half. When I talked about it before, I relied on the description in Paul Theroux’s Happy Isles of Oceania, of which the ship gave a free copy to all passengers. It is to be discussed in the book club meetings this week. I jumped nearly to the end to read the part about Nuku Hiva, where he describes the plot of Typee. He has the story backwards. Throughout nearly the whole book, the hero Tommo is with the Typee tribe of the interior, reputedly cannibals. But he sees no evidence of this, and he is treated with extreme courtesy and solicitude, in every way but one: They do not want him to leave, and guard him closely and cleverly to make sure he stays with them instead of going down to hook up with another European ship. The love interest Fayaway is a Typee girl, not a Happar. In fact the Happars play a very small role in the book, which is why it is called Typee.


1st February 2016

lost day
my IQ always increasing a bit when I have contact with you,Martin. I love your quandary over your excess pills. That is always my calendar when I travel.
2nd February 2016

Don't worry Dad, Thursday was very boring - you guys didn't miss anything ;-)
4th February 2016

Typee and Time Lost
Maybe Theroux didn't read "Typee" but got the basic version from someone else. Wouldn't it be bizarre if the legendary travel writer were, in fact, a blind shut-in--sort of Jorge Luis Borges or Homer--who merely elaborated upon stories he had heard, or dreamed up? I do remain puzzled about how you work out the Pills of Lost Thursday Problem. It would seem to have a domino effect . . .

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