Time is a relative concept. Not an especially close relative – probably a second cousin twice removed or an odd uncle who smells strange – but a relative nonetheless. But just as a malodorous uncle can muscle his way in on the queue for the Christmas pork crackling, fuelled equally by a sense of entitlement and brandy eggnog, so too can time throw an almighty spanner in the works when least expected. Time, it seems, is speeding up.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s the earth that’s getting faster by taking less time to rotate on its axis. In June, our planet recorded its shortest day ever, clocking in at 1.59 milliseconds quicker than average. No wonder I felt rushed. This, of course, creates a problem much bigger than a millisecond. For whilst the earth might play fast and loose with time, the same cannot be said for clocks who are incredibly stubborn about it. As a result, things are ever so slightly out of step.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that it’s this kind of confluence of circumstances that makes time travel a reality. I’m tempted to take the Holden Astra up to eighty eight miles an hour in the Woolies car park and see if I end up somewhere other than in the back of the discount bottle shop. All I need to figure out is which year I should return to. In truth, the answer is obvious.
In the movie ‘Back to the Future’, Marty McFly is transported back to 1955 in order to help Chuck Berry invent rock and roll. This must have come as something of a shock to Chuck when he saw the film. For me, however, I would use my time machine to return to the Year of Our Lord 1987.
There are many reasons why I’d choose this particular year. It was the year the Berlin Wall came down – crumbling as it did when subjected to a performance of ‘Jump In My Car’ by David Hasselhoff. 1989 was also the year that Microsoft first released ‘Office’ – which is the version I use to this very day. It was the year of Milli Vanilli and ‘Pump Up the Jam’ by Technotronic. Of Cher and a revitalized B-52s. But my reasons for heading back to 1989 are not to be in Berlin as the Hoff sang or to encourage Cher to wear something more suited to standing astride a Navy destroyer but, in truth, to tell me to pull my socks up.
If I could travel back in time, it would be to cut my mullet off and explain that no good ever comes from acid wash jeans. Ever. I feel this advice would have changed my life for the better. Also, I would have encouraged my younger self to learn how to dance. Footage from that era survives of me out the front of a band doing something that I thought, then, was dancing but know now to be something akin to wriggling like an electric eel after a nasty surprise.
As exciting as it is to consider that there’s now time unaccounted for that can be claimed back at will, there are questions of a more troubling kind that need to be answered. Namely, if the world is getting faster, how much faster can we expect it to get? I remember once taking my nephew to Luna Park and discovering that this quiet, unassuming eight-year-old feared nothing and insisted on experiencing the most terrifying theme park rides known to humanity. One such ride involved leaning against a wall which then span around until somebody lost their lunch. I don’t remember what it was called, but always think of it as ‘the Vomitron’.
I, for one, am not looking forward to the day I wake up only to find the world spinning at such a pace that my car keys are stuck to the wall and I want to lie down. Soon will come the time when the entire planet is spinning like a top, until it falls from its axis and tumbles into space. Chances are, it’ll happen before I’ve had a chance to use the last of my JB Hi Fi gift vouchers. Typical.
Funny thing is, the world wasn’t always in such a hurry. Until a few years ago, the general consensus was it was slowing down, necessitating the introduction of ‘leap seconds’ to keep everything in line. Now that it’s gone the other way, some are advocating that we ‘drop’ a millisecond. This is new territory. Its impact on technology is, apparently, unknown. All I can say is in the event of a negative leap second, there’s not a chance in hell that I’m going to try and synchronize the clock on my microwave. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take.
It’s no surprise, really, to hear that the world is speeding up. Most of us feel that every day. But amongst all the chaos and noise and pressure, I hope there’s still time to slow down and appreciate things. Time may change and so do we. I think there may have been moments when I’ve resisted changed – which is why I still had a mullet and wore acid wash jeans until November 2013. But it’s different now.
Even if the world speeding up creates a wormhole through which it’s possible for a Holden Astra to slip, I won’t be going back to 1989 after all. What’s done is done. I like it here, instead. And I’m more interested in what’s happening now than anything behind me. Bring on the future.