18 August 2010

A Not-So-Brief and Utterly Incohesive History of Time

Albert Einstein told us that time is relative.

Douglas Adams told us that time is an illusion (and lunch time doubly so).

The Doctor told us that time is more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.

And clever scientists at the Secret Institute for Abstract Thought Experiments have measured the speed of time at a constant velocity of one second per second. However, anyone who has attempted to meet a deadline on an assignment while simultaneously waiting for mince to defrost in the microwave will realise that this assertion is questionable at best.

Last weekend some blast-from-the-past friends of mine and I met up for a ten year high school reunion. Sitting around a dinner table at the Trailer Boat Club and seeing how everyone’s lives have changed since the last time we were all together (spouses, babies, new jobs, new hats etc.), I came to realise just how long ten years can be in human terms. Or indeed, any other terms for that matter. Despite all beginning at a common origin, all my classmates lives have taken them to remarkably different places.

We had people flying in from East and West (but all obviously from a Southern kind of slant given Darwin's location) but the most interesting kick was how many of us still live in Darwin (or have returned to Darwin, in my case). Given how much we used to whinge and whine about Darwin back in the day, I think the amount of us that now call this place home either serves to illuminate the awesomeness of Darwin, or the lack of ambition in the class of 2000. I like to think it's the former.

Coincidentally on the same weekend as the reunion, the school itself had an open day to go and check the current generation of students out. Walking around the same courtyards and walkways where we so often ran, hid, created mayhem and occasionally studied I was amazed to discover that the same period of ten years seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. The drama room in particular, whose construction I was around for and took full advantage of, gave me the distinct sensation that I had been there for my year twelve production only yesterday.

One possible explanation for this apparent temporal paradox, not to mention the discrepancy between time measured in standard Open Day Inspection Seconds (ODIS)and Empirical Trailer Boat Club Wine Glasses (TBCWG) is the space-time vortex that was well known to have been built into the old demountable block we spent our upper primary years in. That particular architectural feature was what made it possible to make a lunch hour stretch from forty minutes to three years, and also made it possible, when necessary, to teleport from the music room at the other end of the campus back to your classroom without being intercepted anywhere in between (a very useful trick if you weren’t supposed to be in the music room in the first place). I think it also used to bend the shape of space near the canteen, so you never did quite know for sure how long the queue was.

I don’t know how they managed to create such a vortex. Somehow the unique mix of medium density fibreboard and asbestos dust must have reacted at a subatomic level, warping the distributed space differential back along the pavlovian antecedent tangent and making a … vortex.

And then the crazy fools went and tore the building down! God only knows what primal and chaotic universal forces they unleashed when they removed those demountables. Not to mention the smell. Those of us who made the trip out to the open day were shocked and appalled to discover the backdrop to so many childhood memories had been reduced to a bare patch of (extremely) disturbed soil, ready to receive a brand new library courtesy of some economic stimulus money from the former Prime Minister. It sounds great until you realise that future generations have lost the chance to experience the thrill and trepidation that comes from crawling fifteen metres under a dusty (and indeed, temporally paradoxical) building to retreive a monumentally misdirected soccer ball. Thanks for nothing Kevin; you've lost my vo... never mind.

Well whatever. It’s possible those same primal forces were responsible for the curious feeling of time flowing past at an inconstant rate as I sat at the Trailer Boat Club and tried to get my head around all my contemporaries' kids' names. It’s also possible the effect could be put down to a nice shiraz with old friends and a glorious sunset.

Or both.

Garry with 2 Rs
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