When planning my activities this month, I craftily set myself up for an 8 a.m. weekend volunteering stint just after having gotten back from six days in Hawaii.
"I figured I'd be up early anyway," I reasoned. It had to be explained to me that since Hawaii runs three hours earlier than California, that what I had done actually made no sense. "It actually feels worse for you to be getting up early on the West Coast now," I was told. "It would feel like five in the morning to you." Gee, that explains the two-hour nap I took today, after flying in from O'ahu last night. I wondered why I was so tired!
I have a degree from a very respectable university and most of the time seem like a perfectly intelligent human being. But certain areas, such as time zones, turn me into a complete mouth-breather. The whole of geography and spatial relations is a realm of mystery.
One of our companions in Hawaii happened to be a former coworker of mine at a news Web site. At one point he lamented the stunning mistakes that some of his colleagues make these days.
"Remember that news quiz they used to give to job candidates?" he said to me. "I don't know what happened to that. These are people who couldn't pick out Kuala Lumpur on a map!" He said this with earnest incredulity.
I let that sit for a moment before coming clean. "They never gave me that quiz," I said. "I got hired before they instituted it." I was having a good day and happened to know that Kuala Lumpur was in Malaysia, but if you ask me where Malayasia is on a map, there's a chance I'd point to Tibet. Or maybe Mexico.
"I would have failed that test, and I was the world editor at one point," I confessed. Our friend politely ignored me and continued to critique his coworkers.
There must be something adaptive about the fact that my brain cannot process which way east is, but can still sing a Pop Tarts commercial from 1987. I'm not sure what that adaptive quality is, but I'm open to ideas.