Beanery Online Literary Magazine

March 6, 2008


—written by geoffrey m. miller
© 1997 Miller Creative Services. All rights reserved

When Geoffrey Miller submitted this item, the first part of the first sentence of the post below caught my eye: Once upon a time, there was a theoretical physicist…Those who know me from another life know my now-pastoral spouse was a physics professor when I married him. I often asked myself why I married a physics person. Perhaps geof’s post will help you understand why I ask that question! Carolyn

Once upon a time, there was a theoretical physicist who was gazing through the eyepiece of a Super Magnatron X-2000 microscope at the surface of a piece of paper. At such high magnification, the fibers of the paper looked like a tangle of gigantic carpet rolls. Those near the top were spattered with thick blue slime, where someone had put a dot of ink over an “i”.

“What does it all mean?” the physicist wondered.

At that moment, his wife snatched the paper away and held it to his face.

“It’s a grocery list.” she snapped. “It means you’re supposed to go to the store and buy eggs and milk.”

That’s the trouble with theoretical physicists: They think too much. They are so deep into formulas and calculation that they usually miss the obvious stuff.

One of these guys wrote a book that I just finished reading. It was called, “The Nature and Properties of Time in the Expanding Universe Cosmology”. As near as I can figure, the point of the book was to make it clear that theoretical physicists have no idea how time works or why we perceive time the way we do. To make absolutely certain that we know that they know nothing, the last fifty pages of the book are devoted to complex mathematical formulas that prove beyond a doubt that the physicists have no clue.

Meanwhile, I– a guy who writes silly little stories and can barely count to ten– have a perfectly clear understanding of time and how we perceive it. Based on real-life observations, I have concluded that time is not constant or static. It shrinks and expands; speeds up and slows down. Furthermore, these fluctuations in time are regulated by variations in pressure inside the human bladder. I wrote a story about this theory, which I will be mailing to him tomorrow. Here it is:

The air conditioner in our office was on the fritz and I had guzzled at least a gallon of water from the cooler that afternoon. As I was hurrying to the restroom, I got a call from a client I had spent the past three days trying to make contact with. Normally, he is a gruff, blunt fellow who gets straight to the point. Today, he decided to become “Mr. Conversationalist”.

As I paced and squirmed, he described at length his daughter’s recent wedding, what a dolt his new son-in-law was, and how glad he was that he wouldn’t have to see his relatives again until the holidays.
According to my watch, this conversation had lasted four minutes. My perception was that it had been closer to fifteen.

By the time we hung up it was five o’clock and I had exactly 12 minutes to get down the elevator, down the street, and to my bus stop. No problem, I thought. I could duck into the bathroom on my way out.

As I raced down the hall, I could see the Men’s Room door propped open and the cleaning lady wheeling her supplies across the threshold. I called to her from the doorway, my desperate voice echoing on the hard tiles. Her voice echoed back in a language that was not English. I waited impatiently as she sang folk songs from the old country. Occasionally, she called out the door to me, saying something that, for all I know, could have meant, “I’ll be out as soon as I finish painting all the stalls.” Again, I checked my watch. The total elapsed time of this incident had been two minutes. My perception was that it had taken half an hour.

From the 38th floor, it took exactly ten minutes to get to the bus stop. On the way, I passed a custodian filling a bucket with water. I passed the little fountain in the lobby; the big fountain out front; an open fire hydrant and a shopkeeper who was spraying his sidewalk with a garden hose.

As anyone other than a physicist knows, the sound of running water has a certain… shall we say, “effect,” on ones bladder. By the time I reached the bus stop, the internal pressure had increased significantly, causing my perception of time to expand even further. In this case; 10 minutes of real time @ 30 psi = 2 hours/50 minutes of perceived time.

The bus was late, which did not improve matters at all. The twenty minutes, (eight hours), we spent in city traffic made the situation somewhat more desperate.

One block from the freeway, we made our last stop. Six people got on. The first five moved like molasses; fumbling with their change and transfers as if they had never done it before; then slowly marching to their seats as if they were in a wedding procession. At least that’s how it seemed to me.

The last passenger was a tourist– a chatty, perky person who spent five minutes telling the bus driver how much she liked our city before getting to the damn point and asking if this bus went past the Art Museum. Before the driver could begin his lengthy explanations, I intervened.

“That’s the Art Museum right there!” I screamed, pointing across the street to the county prison.

“And it closes in five minutes, so you better hurry!”

Moments later, we were on the freeway. As we drove, time continued to expand as the internal pressure continued to build. It seemed that I could easily have pedaled my bicycle to Mars in less time than it took the bus to get from the off-ramp to my stop.

By the time the doors swung open, the world was moving in super slow-motion, like a shoot-out scene from a Martin Scorsese film. I sprinted, ever-so-slowly, from the bus stop to the apartment, up the steps, through the door and into the bathroom.

At this juncture, the pressure had reached a point where the laws of physics began to break down, making accurate calculations difficult. However, as near as I can figure, the 2.3 seconds I spent between the bathroom door and my final objective was perceived by me to be in excess of one hundred thirty-seven thousand years.

This Blog Post has been read 240 times.


1 Comment »

  1. Why would you say that?

    Comment by Geoff (author) — March 10, 2008 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

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