Monday, May 17, 2010

The Universe Gets Even

March 2010

I answered an online posting with some lame joke about the universe being out of balance, and then I got up from the computer and walked over to the library's front desk to sign out. I checked the clock for my sign-out time and froze. I'd signed in at 2:55, and now it was 2:30.

I remembered noting when I signed in that several people before me had signed in or out at 2:50 and 2:55, and what were the odds that several other people had gotten the time wrong? So the 2:55 number must be correct.

I checked the clock again. I kept looking at it, but it kept saying 2:30. One of the librarians came by. The librarian is our friend, a person paid and naturally inclined to resolve questions, a source of information and stability in a puzzling world. So I pointed out to her that I'd signed in at 2:55, but now it was 2:30.

She said, "It must have been a mistake."

So in addition to being disoriented, I was stuck trying to figure out an obscure pronoun reference. Which part of this mess was a mistake?

Then the source of information and reason laughed and said, "You're in a time warp."

When a librarian says you're in a time warp, you have to pause to consider the possibility even it does seem improbable. As I left, I remembered joking online that the universe was unbalanced.

But I had an errand at the post office across the street, and the mundane transaction got me grounded again.

Then back in the car, the clock, which had always been reliable, said 1:20.

It took me longer that time to regain my balance.

But then I got immersed in a project at work. I’m used to losing track of time while immersed in a project, so I didn’t care what time the office clocks said it was when I left that evening. As long as the clocks agreed on the time, which they did, all was well.

The next morning when I woke up, my bedside clock was dark so I assumed the power was out again and called the time-and-temperature number at the bank to find out if it was time to get up. For 21 years, the time-and-temperature number had given me the time and temperature. This time it got me a recording saying that my call is important.

That got my attention. I sat up. Trying to get a handle on what was happening, in a search for more information, I tried the bedside lamp, which turned on. So the electricity wasn’t out. But the bedside clock was still dark. I fiddled with it and with the power cord, but it stayed dark. So I called the bank number again, and this time their phone rang and rang, but that nice man on the time-and-temperature recording didn’t answer. This was unprecedented.

I dove under the covers. Help, I needed help, and the only phone numbers I knew by heart were the bank, Dad, Dave, and Elizabeth. The bank had betrayed me. Calling Dad in distress was out of the question because he’d get all worried and upset about me. Calling Dave would be cruel in light of his variable work schedule and the new baby. So I called Elizabeth and got her answering service, which helped some because it meant the time was after 8:00. Even so, I left a rambling, pitiful message about disorientation, the universe not functioning correctly, not knowing what time it was, and not knowing if it was time to get up.

Talking through it aloud helped me get a grip, and I got up. My cell phone and the kitchen clock agreed that it was 9:27, so I fed the cats and left another message for Elizabeth, this time in a deliberate, large-and-in-charge voice, asking her to disregard the previous message.

I’m fine now. But in the future I will try to remember not to insult the universe, even in jest. I’m too easy a target.

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