January 7, 2010
Every year in late December an interesting thing starts happening in the office where I work. As people leave they’ll say, "See you next year!" It’s ridiculous because, at most, I’ll be seeing them again in a couple of weeks. As far as I know nobody’s taking the entire year off, although I do think it would be kind of funny if I could disappear for an entire year then show up again at the office in late December. The only problem is I’ve got this job that pretty much requires me to be in the office most of the year, so if I disappeared for twelve months or so I’d probably have trouble with little details like getting paid. And a lot can happen in a year, so maybe I’d walk into the office and say, "Well, I said I’d see everyone next year," and a bunch of complete strangers would look at me and say, "And you are?" And maybe I’d stick around to celebrate the New Year with them, especially if they were willing to hire me. Except new year celebrations always seem to me to be incredibly arbitrary. First, why stick them in the middle of winter? I suspect it has something to with the solstice, but most years the solstice comes about ten days before the end of the year.
And then we start off the year with January, named for the Roman god Janus, who had two faces–but in a good way. Janus looked forward and backward and thus was the only Roman god who could legally talk on his cell phone while driving, but that’s another story. Starting the new year in the middle of winter–instead of, say, the beginning of spring, or even the beginning of summer, when standing in the middle of Times Square to see the giant ball drop wouldn’t require wearing seventeen layers of clothing–seems kind of depressing. Unless of course you live in the southern hemisphere, where it comes right in the middle of summer, and also, depending on where you live, the time difference means you’ll see all the live broadcasts of all those new year’s celebrations some time in mid-February. Who the heck decided we should start the year in January, anyway? I know the Romans did it, but they also ate mice dipped in fermented mouse paste, and I don’t see anybody doing that these days, except on certain television shows, and even then it’s only because people are being paid to do it. It doesn’t help that the calendar’s been shifted around several times too. Astronomers say that technically each year is really 365.25 days long, which always makes me wonder if we should wait until 6AM to drop the giant ball in Times Square. Or maybe the problem is really that each day is just a few minutes longer than the standard twenty-four hours, although at least it’s not as bad as Mars where the days are twenty-four hours and thirty-seven minutes. Every time I visit Mars I have the hardest time figuring out how to reset my watch, and don’t get me started on Martian daylight savings time. At least now we’re in the year 2010, which I think means I’m finally going to get that flying car and there’ll be colonies on the Moon and the aliens should finally land. It would have been pretty cool if they’d landed on New Year’s Day, although aliens are probably like the post office and don’t work on holidays, and also I can’t blame them for not wanting to arrive right in the middle of winter.