Saturday, April 14, 2018

The halfway game

Let's say, for the sake of argument, the year was 1995. I was in a bar with a friend. I was vaguely bored, as is usual for me in social situations. I  had bought a beer with a ten (or maybe it was a twenty) and had gotten a $5 bill back in my change. Something looked odd about it, beyond being very worn. The picture of Lincoln looked smaller, and the filigrees and scrollwork more ornate. I looked for a series date, and found it: 1930.

What would cause a $5 bill from 1930 to appear in a bar in West Pittston in 1995?, I wondered. I thought about some kid rummaging through their grandparents' sock drawer in search of cash to take to the bar. Or maybe it was some octogenarian raiding his mattress for beer money? But then something special hit me about the year 1930. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Sixty-five years had passed from the time of Lincoln's death to the time this $5 bill with his image was printed. Sixty-five more years passed before this $5 bill was given to me as change at a bar in West Pittston. This bill represented the halfway point between the year Lincoln was shot and the current year. It was a sort of stepping-stone that allowed one to cross between the present day and a historical event.

I can think of lots of examples of this "halfway game":

- Today I was reminded of the NBC miniseries Holocaust, which dramatized the events surrounding the Nazi program of Jewish extermination in WWII. That miniseries ran in April 1978, almost exactly forty years ago. When it aired, it had not yet been forty years since Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

- The TV series Happy Days aired in the mid-1970's and was set in the mid-1950's. Were a similar nostalgic show to be aired today, it would be set in the late 1990's.

- Star Wars (the movie known today as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) came out in 1977, forty-one years ago as I write this. Forty-one years before that was 1936 - the year in which Raiders of the Lost Ark is set.

This is a somewhat unnerving exercise. I expect it to get more unnerving as additional years pass.

EDIT, 4/15/2018: Assuming my recollection of details is correct and this wasn't, say, a 1931 bill that I was looking at in 1997 or a 1932 bill that I was looking at in 1999 or a 1933 bill in 2001, this incident took place twenty-three years ago as I write this - a surprisingly long time ago. If that is the case, then twenty-three years before that was 1972, the year that the flood brought on by Tropical Storm Agnes transformed this area forever.

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