So I was following protocols on the tube the other day, numbly adhering to the social norms by staring vaguely in no direction in particular, when I glanced at the newspaper to my right. This, too, is a social norm when travelling on the London Underground: you are allowed to take a brief look at the reading material of your near neighbours, but it is considered inappropriate to too conspicuously begin reading.
An article on cricket caught my eye - I have been following the ongoing cricket world cup - and I lingered for a fraction.
The newspaper was dated 27th December 2010. The man on the tube next to me was reading the sports section from The Times dated 27th December 2010.
And he wasn't poring over it as if it was a special process, as perhaps one might suppose if he was doing some background research, or was searching for a particular piece having that morning vaguely recalled something he wanted to revisit. He was simply reading the sports pages of his newspaper, casually turning the pages, pausing here and there when something caught his attention.
I double checked: was it really the 24th of March? Maybe I'd imagined the last three months?
Perhaps he was mad. Perhaps he really thought it was the 27th of December. Perhaps he has built up a bit of a backlog, and doesn't yet know we're bombing Libya. I'm worried for him: he can't possibly catch up, the backlog can only get worse, he can only fall further and further behind. This time next year it'll only be May 2011.
Perhaps he's a Situationist, deliberately reading a paper from the past in order to sow mild confusion, a prick against the comfortably numb.
Perhaps he's a character from a Borges short story, for whom time is passing at a different rate from the rest of us, a character who is progressively slowing down until he comes to complete halt.
Perhaps he has just had enough and wants to get off.