From there to here

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2000

SYDNEY--Australia would be a great place if it weren't so far away from everything else in the world. Then again, some people say that's what makes it so great.

After traveling 25 hours to get here for the Olympic Games, which begin Friday, I was met with nothing but smiling faces. Everyone has been friendly. Everyone has been helpful. Everyone tells a joke. And when they hear you're from America they practically want to invite you home for a cup of tea.

The only bit of unfriendliness came when I tried to check into the Media Village. There was a problem of some sort and several of us had to wait for someone to check if the rooms were clean. I was patient. At least I didn't yell like the French photographer.

The bigger surprise came when I got to my room and discovered a strange man in my shower. Well, he really wasn't too strange, but he was in my room. It was Tim Guidera, my partner from the Savannah Morning News.

When we talked to one of the volunteers running the Media Village, he looked at us like we had six heads each. "I'll check into this," he said.

He's still checking into why we have a double room when we both paid for singles. I look forward to working with Tim, just not that closely. Well, while our hosts are "checking into" the mixup, we'll just see who wins the snoring contest in room 2767.

The problem with getting here from America is not just the distance, but the screwy way our time system works. I left Augusta at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and arrived in Sydney at 9:45 a.m. Sept. 10. What happened to Sept. 9?

For me it just disappeared. While everyone back home was enjoying their Saturday I jumped from Friday to Sunday. I flew from Augusta to Atlanta to Los Angeles and it was still Friday.

When the Qantas plane took off from Los Angeles it was still Friday. I read, ate and took a nap. When we landed in Sydney it was Sunday.

When I heard what day it was I panicked. I thought this was an episode from "The Twilight Zone." I grabbed the nearest steward person and asked him if he knew who stole my day.

He looked in my eyes, took a slow step back away from me, looking around for help. I suppose he thought that telling me everyone on the plane had lost a day would help somehow, but that only made it worse.

"That's more than half a year," I said. "What will that do for business productivity in our country?"

As his eyes bugged out he stammered something about the International Date Line, but he might as well have tried to explain calculus.

"I wasn't in line for a date, domestic or foreign," I said. "I just fell asleep and I lost a whole day."

Just think what I could have done with that day. I might have invented a pine tree that doesn't drop its needles. I could have invented a martini that either A. doesn't taste so good going in, B. doesn't make you do foolish things after drinking them, or C. at least doesn't make you feel so bad the next day.

Who knows? With that extra day I might just have been able to figure out calculus.

As I became more insistent about the airline returning my day they had lost, the steward person call his superior.

"When are you returning to the United States," she asked.

I gave her the date and she smiled triumphantly.

"That's when you will get you day back," she said with a smile. "You will actually land in Los Angeles before you leave Sydney."

Great. Now I'll get to be Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." And how do I land in L.A. earlier than I left Sydney.

I know, I know. It's the International Date Line. That poor thing is getting blamed for everything except global warming.

My head's starting to hurt. I think I need to find one of those Aussie beers I keep hearing about, unless the International Date Line has stolen them all.

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