(*Sigh*)...here we go again. February 2nd was approaching fast, and as usual, Scott and I were at our wits' end. One way or another, we knew that stupid groundsheep was about to get us fined, arrested, shot at, quarantined, run out of town, indicted, deported, institutionalized, or some combination of the above, just as he does every year. Worse still, if he saw his shadow, he'd stick us with six more weeks of winter. Consequently, we weren't in the best of moods with Shearson as the zero day neared....
But, what could we do? I mean, short of hoping for a cataclysmic meteor strike that would wipe out all life on Earth – and let's face it, we'd never get that lucky – there seemed to be no way to avoid whatever ill fate was in store for us. "I wish we could just skip Groundsheep Day entirely," groaned Scott. "Yeah," I replied, "if only there was some way we could jump from February 1st right to February 3rd...."
And then, a brilliant idea struck us!...well, two-thirds of us, anyway:
We retired to the basement to work out our nefarious plot. See, way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies the island nation of Kiribati. Its claim to fame is that it's 13 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, which means it's the first place on the planet to see a new day. The waters immediately to its east, however, are on the other side of the International Date Line, 12 hours behind GMT. You see what we're getting at, don't you? If we crossed westward into Kiribati with Shearson at precisely the right moment, we'd effectively jump 25 hours into the future. Then, at least for us, 2012 would be The Year Without A Groundsheep Day!
While we planned our journey, Shearson ate Central America off our desktop globe. Guess the Mayans were sort of right after all.
And so, early in the morning of February 1st, we caught a flight to Hawaii. We found a cheap boat-rental place and immediately began paddling towards Kiri-whatsitsname. Scott, ever the good Boy Scout, brought a GPS so we wouldn't get lost or accidentally cross over too soon. That was important, I explained to him, because the International Date Line was merely a long zig-zag on a map. It wasn't like there was a real line painted in the middle of the ocean or anything like that.
Huh... Turns out, there was.
Anyway, we had a few hours to wait, so we settled in and passed the time quietly. Well, except for that one bit of unpleasantness with those pests from Greenpeace, that is. We tried to explain to them that the groundsheep was hungry and, honestly now, was the world ecosystem really going to miss one lousy whale? They were still pretty ticked off when they finally left, though at the end of the day we're pretty sure they won't be coming too close to Shearson again anytime soon.
Speaking of the end of the day, it was drawing near. Darkness had fallen. Scott consulted the GPS and saw that the local time was 11:04pm. We looked at one another, each grabbed an oar, took a deep breath, and rowed across the date line. Nothing particularly earth-shattering happened, and Shearson still sat there wearing his usual dumb smile. However, when we looked at the GPS once more....
Holy crap, it worked!!!
Scott and I congratulated each other on a job well done. No muss, no fuss, and no more winter to boot! There was one minor snag we hadn't considered, though. We couldn't go directly home, because it was still February 2nd most everywhere else on earth. In order to ensure that we'd avoid Groundsheep Day completely, we'd have to patiently stay behind Midnight on its journey around the globe.
We began by rowing to South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. It's a very poor country but even in the middle of the night, we could get a real sense of its natural, tropical beauty. There was something awfully strange about our taxi driver, though....
A couple hours later, we started heading westward. We rowed down to Australia and caught an early-morning show at the famous Sydney Opera House. It wasn't too crowded.
Next we traveled to India, where we saw a breathtaking view of a camel caravan crossing the beach at sunrise. You know, the Punjabi are a lot shorter than I pictured them to be. Woolier, too. ..
By the time we got to Egypt, we realized that something had gone terribly, horribly, catastrophically awry!
What had we done?!? By time-traveling through Groundsheep Day, we'd turned the whole universe into one big ovine Twilight Zone. We had to get to the midnight line before it was too late! Six more weeks of winter was a picnic compared to an eternity of being surrounded by nothing but stupid sheep!
So, Scott and I got in the boat and paddled as fast as we could towards North America, where it was still February 2nd...but only for a few more hours. Shearson, meanwhile, did his Titanic "I'm the king of the world!" impression the whole way across the Atlantic. If we'd had the time, we'd have rowed to Norway and left him on an iceberg.
We made it home by a quarter to twelve and promptly collapsed on our stoop in exhaustion. Unfortunately, the front porch lights were on, so the groundsheep wound up seeing his shadow after all. Thus, despite our best efforts, it looks as though we're not going to have an early spring this year. On the bright side, all of our neighbors appear to have two legs, no tails, and not much in the way of fleece coats, plus Mary Beth didn't baa at us when we finally staggered through the door. So, we're pretty sure everything is back to normal. If you notice your co-workers grazing on the lawn outside ATL at lunchtime, don't blame us.
'Til next year,
- Nick, Scott, and Shearson.
Photography by J. Straguzzi, who hopes not to have to do something so silly ever again.