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Have you ever had a day that from the moment you awaken in the morning, just doesn't feel right? A day when you have the feeling that you are, for some reason, out of sync with the rest of the world and everything in it? It is sort of the psychological equivalent of wearing a pair of pants that are just the tiniest bit too tight or too long or too big despite the fact that they fit perfectly the last time you wore them, and all day you are just enough uncomfortable that it bothers you like a dull toothache or lost thought in the back of your mind. That is what I felt like the other day from the moment I woke up and it never went away all day long.
On days like these nothing seems to work exactly or as smoothly as you are accustomed to things working. It isn't that there is some big difference that causes a disaster or anything. Your microwave doesn't blow up – it just takes a little longer to cook the exact same thing that you put in it the day before. Your coffee maker or kettle doesn't implode, it's just that nothing coming out of them tastes exactly right. For some reason, your commute to work takes 5 minutes longer than it usually does and no matter how hard you try or how you adjust them, you can't get your windshield wipers to handle the light rain on your window at just the right interval to remove the water without squeaking in a way that makes your teeth hurt.
When you get to work you can't find a parking place that doesn't have ice or a puddle on the pavement right where you are going to step out of your car. The key to your office or locker, which you have used a thousand times, just doesn't seem to fit right. Paperwork that you always keep in the same place day after day, has mysteriously moved to another location. Your phone, which was working just fine the day before, suddenly has developed some kind of weird whine or electronic sizzle that makes it annoying when you try to use it. Worst of all, people you have known for a long time just don't seem quite the same. They are not completely different, but they just don't act or react in exactly the same way that they usually do. Someone who always says good morning to you in a cheerful voice walks right by you without saying a word. Someone who always laughs at your jokes gives you a blank look when you make one. Someone you told something to the day before doesn't remember you ever saying it or visa versa. Days like these are incredibly frustrating and ultimately cause you to want to find a hole someplace and hide in it until things go back to normal.
I mentioned to a co-worker that I was having a day as I have described and he had an interesting theory.
“It's kind of like that Star Trek episode where Kirk gets in the transporter and is somehow sent onto an Enterprise in an alternate universe,” he said.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yep,” he continued. “You know, the one where Spock has a beard and everyone is totally different and mostly evil. What you are experiencing is not so dramatic, of course. Everything just seems slightly off, and not in a good way. All day long you wander around feeling as if you just don't fit.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You are saying that somehow during the night while I was asleep I was mysteriously transported to an alternate universe?”
“Exactly,” he assured me. “It happens to everyone. I always know first thing when I wake up that things are a bit off.” He pointed to another of our co-workers and asked, “Look at Frank. Doesn't he seem just a little bit different to you today?”
I looked at Frank. “Not really,” I said. “But I think I can say with absolute certainty that if there are alternate universes, Frank is pretty much a jerk in every one of them.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “but he is a slightly different jerk than the one he is in your regular universe.”
I couldn't argue with that. There are lots of ways to be a jerk and I was pretty sure old Frank had explored most of them.
“So,” I asked, “if this is an alternate universe or dimension or whatever, how do I get back to my own? Not that it is all that great, but at least I don't have to spend the entire day feeling like a pair of pants that doesn't fit right.”
“That's just it, you don't. You just get through the day and tomorrow morning you will wake up back in the right universe.”
Right, nothing to it.
“Just out of curiosity,” I asked, “how can we move from one universe to another without instantly dying horribly?”
“”Don't ask me,” answered my friend, “Even big brain scientists know hardly anything about quantum physics, and I'm no big brain scientist. You could always go rewatch that episode of Star Trek and see what it gives as an explanation.”
I could, but I won't. I didn't think that some Hollywood writer's take on quantum physics would help much. I decided to just somehow get through the rest of the day feeling like an ill-fitting pair of trousers and kept my eye out for anyone sporting a full grown evil beard that wasn't there the day before. The next day I awoke feeling totally back in sync with the world.
Quantum physics. Go figure.
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