Just a week ago, here in the Philadelphia area, they said we had 22.28 extra inches of precipitation for the year. (That would be the year 2011.) Today? Today, now that it’s 2012, we’re heading for a drought, with a year-to-date deficit of .64 inches.
(If you’re a metric person, that comes to a 56.6 cm surplus last year, and a 1.6 cm deficit so far this January. Or you could say that the surplus, if you had it all in one place at one time, would come above my knees and halfway up my thighs. But then I’m short.)
How do you decide that you’re going to put this second in one category and the second immediately after it in a different one, just because we’ve spun a little farther around the sun? Of course you need to start somewhere if you’re going to keep records and compare them from one year to the next. But here – well, not exactly here, not in the virtual world, but here in the physical world of the chair I’m sitting in and the keyboard I’m typing on – here in our inescapable world, the ground is pretty nearly as saturated today as it was last Sunday. In some ways, dividing lines are silly.
And yet we keep on drawing them; we can’t do without them. This instant of time is different somehow from that one; a square inch on the left side of a split hair can’t be treated like a square inch on the right. If I get in my car and drive to the nearest gas station to get the tank filled, I can sit comfortably behind the steering wheel while someone comes and pumps the gas for me, because the laws of New Jersey say that’s how we do it here. But if I travel just a few miles over the Ben Franklin Bridge – or the Walt Whitman; either one will put me in Pennsylvania once I’m on the other side of the Delaware River – anyhow, if I drive over the river into Philadelphia, I would have to search long and hard for a gas station where anyone will do anything for me but take my money. More money than I would hand to the New Jersey gas station employee who was out in the rain or sleet filling the tank for me, since somehow crossing the Delaware also makes gas cost more, as a rule.
I’ve pumped gas myself. My mother lives in Pennsylvania; there have been times when I had no way of getting home from helping her except to fill my own tank. It’s not mentally challenging, but I’d just as soon not be bothered. Thank goodness for dividing lines.
New Jersey. It’s not a pretty state, on the whole, but we do have our arbitrary good points.
(Followup: WordPress just congratulated me on publishing another post with a Very Special Quote:
“That isn’t writing at all, it’s typing. — Truman Capote“.
All right, I have to agree. This isn’t one of my better efforts, but it’s nearly 11 p.m. and I can’t come up with anything more interesting today. One point to Truman.)