The first time we went to New Zealand I was totally obsessed with the idea of being on the other side of the world.
The day we got here, after an exhausting three weeks sharing a small space with our children and their children, making up for the months immediately past and future of our not being there; after two flights and eight hours just to get to LAX, six hours at the airport celebrity spotting and partaking of free wine and green lipped mussels in the Air New Zealand Lounge, fifteen hours and two planes to Christchurch and a complete and mysterious loss of an entire day en route as we crossed the international date line; we finally reached a room with a big cushy bed and a bathroom that we had all to ourselves where I watched the water go down the drain.
Not claiming any personal expertise in most things scientific, I do like to think that I have fairly good powers of observation, as I enjoy looking at things. I looked at the water swirl around the basin, counter to all my personal observations in all my years of emptying baths and running taps. I realized, with a great and profoundly satisfying pleasure, that I really was standing in a bathroom on the other side of the world. In flying over the dark Pacific I had peered out the cabin window and thought the red crescent moon, sheltered in the darker lit circle of its real self, appeared to be on the “wrong” side and that the Little Dipper hung upside down and backwards, but who was to say that wasn’t the time and the wine talking.
But then, as I say, I’m no scientist and operate largely by feel; knowing west and east only when the sun is out, or I am near the Hudson River. I had been one of those children who really had believed that, if you dug a hole straight down on the beach, you would be able to crawl through to China and had not only systematically dug summer after summer, but learned very purposefully to use chop sticks in the eventuality of hitting the right beach, the right hole, at the right time. I knew enough not to tell anyone what I was doing, because grown ups were otherwise convinced by a science I was skeptical about.
I would very much have appreciated what one of the twins tells me is a Google tool called Dig Here . You identify your own back yard on a world map, press the button and it shows you where you would come up if you dug straight down. Peter says tunneling through his living room floor in Pittsburgh leaves him floundering in the Indian Ocean well off the coast of Perth, Australia. Amazingly, using the same tool has me here-- in New Zealand--if I were looking through the hole dug in our then Scottish garden-- although I too would need some seriously powerful water wings to paddle ashore. Sadly, my childhood fantasy of digging to China would have happened only if I were digging somewhere off the coast of Cape Horn, where I don’t believe chop sticks are requisite dining implements at all.
But here it is—my scientific truth. The bath water, as observed by me, and despite all myth -busting data "real" scientists have documented, enters the New Zealand drain I am looking at counter clockwise to how it gets there in my sink in Massachusetts. Even if you splash it across the sink, it still reverts to this anti -directional flow. I welcome an opportunity to watch a swimming pool empty but suspect, given environmental austerity, one is unlikely to arise. The tides and the wind do, thrust by the Coriolus Effect, come in “anti” clockwise-- making westerly winds bad and nor’easters good—a phenomenon that I doubt I can ever feel any ease with as the local weather report puts a big, sunny, happy face on the letters NE in the winds forecast.
My wrist watch however, plods on—heeding the universal mandate to tick to the right, even though it has failed to recognize that while it is Saturday here, it is Friday in Boston. Jar lids still screw and taps close to the right. It is only the stars and the winds and the seas that register the enormity of planetary distance and gravitational pull. I haven’t yet experimented to see if New Zealand wine pours itself backwards, but put that on my observational list of must-see’s.