Back in the Day

Somewhere out in the aether, there stands a monolith. I call this monolith The Great Chalkboard. On it are written the equations that govern Everything with a capital-E. It's all on there, from Boyle's Law to accurate meteorological prediction to a mathematical expression of how to flip the perfect pancake. Among those equations, one can find this little ditty: Stuff + Time = Better Stuff

Known to the rest of us mortals as the "Things Were Better In My Day" Corollary.

And judging by the average conversation between a septuagenarian and a teenager, it seems to be immutable. Here comes Grandpa telling Junior about how today's cars/music/clothes/whatever can't hold a candle to what he and his buddies had. Meanwhile, Junior's cell phone does more than Grandpa's whole house, and he's using it to text his girlfriend, likely arranging sensual delights the likes of which Grandpa would have been embarrassed to request at an Amsterdam brothel while on shore leave in the service. Sorry Grandpa, Junior wins this round.

Still, it is hard to argue that in many cases, the Corollary is dead right. Let us consider the example of snakes. Not the little guys, the bite-you-and-watch-you-die snakes. No, we're talking about big, hulking, eat-you-whole-while-your-family-watches snakes.1 If you think we have some fine specimens of the latter, you should have seen the bastards that were slithering around South America 60 million years ago.

Fossils discovered under a coal mine in Colombia sketch the harrowing picture of a snake that was a biscuit shy of fifty feet long, and weighed in at well over a ton. That's fifty feet of snake — more than fifty-five pounds per foot — devouring you from the feet up right in front of your family.2

The expedition's chief snakeologist, Jonathan Bloch, is quoted as saying the snake "would have had trouble fitting though the door into your office." What he left unsaid, but what must have been twinkling in his eyes as he spoke, was A) the clear implication that this thing would have hunted you down at work, and B) there may well be no end to how much ass this thing kicked.

The pity of it is, we'll never really know. We'll never be able to say definitively that the Colombian enormo-snake kicked 149.4 asses, or whatever the proper ass-kick unit of measurement is. How fortunate, then, to have stumbled upon another ancient relic that still exists in its original form. Frozen, to be precise.

Canadian scientists have located the oldest ice in North America. Uncovered by mining activity3, these wedges of ice formed 750,000 years ago and expanded gradually as run-off from springtime thaw seeped into the ground and froze.

Now, obviously this one is not quite as evident as a snake the size of a yacht. But remember the Corollary. This ice has been percolating for three-quarters of a million years — can you imagine how frosty cold our beverages would be with that shit? You could leisurely make and eat an entire smoked-turkey-on-whole-wheat sandwich, plus chips, not to mention channel surfing, and the ice will still be tinkling in the glass. Honestly, give me that, and I don't care what you take in the bargain.

Alas, such bliss is not to be. As soon as the iceologists finished their study of the ice, the damn stuff melted.

I look at my lukewarm Newman's Own lemonade and weep for what could have been. 1Okay, odds are your family wouldn't be watching. 2Again, it's kind of unclear whether they would be present. 3Why is it always mines?