Happy Unbirthday


It’s Monday and I’m looking for a rationale to have a drink. Before you say it, I know that drinking doesn’t need a reason. But I’m a sporting fellow, and I thought I’d try to track one down. April 11. What is there to drink for on April 11?

April 11 is international Louie Louie Day, Hug Your Dog Day, and Farm Animal Day. but I’ve always hated that song, I hug my dog every day, and the further away from farm animals I stay the better. It’s the day Apollo 13 launched (1970), Idi Amin was deposed (1979), MacArthur got fired (1951), the Civil Rights Act was passed (1968), and Joe Dirt premiered (1991). Some of these events are more impressive than others (how does one measure up to Joe Dirt, after all), but I am left unaroused by these facts. The search went on.

It was about 10 in the morning when I was struck by inspiration. My birthday is October 11, the polar opposite of my birthday is April 11. I leapt for joy and when the roomful of students eyed me inquisitively, I decided to come clean.

“April 11 is my polar opposite birthday.”

The students murmured in a way that suggested they didn’t share my enthusiasm or my spreading sense of dread. No matter, I thought, this will add to my reasoning for a drink. One student, a nice gent by the name of Honza, raised his hand.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Does that mean it is your…unbirthday?”

I looked at the screen and was struck that we were focusing our language portion of class on prefixes.

“Honza! You genius!”

Honza looked chuffed as hell. He looked around the room.

“You just invented a word.”

“I did?”

As we began talking about the genius of the prefix un for this particular word, another student raised her hand. Her name is Karolina and while she seems to like me and my classes, she seems to like Honza about as much as a persistent foot rash.

“Mr. G?”

“Yes?”

“Honza didn’t invent the word unbirthday.”

“He didn’t?”

“I didn’t?” Honza asked, clearly deflated.

“No. Lewis Carrol did. It’s in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“What?”

“He did. The Egg Man…” She showed a picture.

“Humpty Dumpty.”

“Yes. It’s his unbirthday in the book.”

While Humpty Dumpty explains that an unbirthday can be any day of the year that isn’t one’s birthday, I personally like (and argued for) Honza’s interpretation. After all, if it’s Humpty’s definition, that means we have potentially 364 unbirthdays a year. Leap year babies have 1459 unbirthdays to their birthday. By Honza’s interpretation, an unbirthday is the day of the year that is the polar opposite of your actual birthday. And April 11 is my unbirthday.

But the story wasn’t over for our friend, April 11. After class I had my office hours. As my office hours is to students what sobriety was to Hunter Thompson, I was alone and free to work for the hour. I researched April 11 and learned that the most boring day in modern history is April 11, 1954. That is, computer scientists analyzed over 300 million facts and found that on April 11, 1954 absolutely nothing happened. One man of note was born and one politician died. Otherwise, nothing in sports, politics, global drama. Not only that, but it was exactly 20.5 years before my birth.     

In the same vein as April 11 1954’s ignominious fame, the third Monday in January is known as the most depressing day of the year. Just like April 11, this is based on calculations which in the third Monday in January’s case involves quantifying time since Christmas, days without sports, average weather conditions, debt level, and time since New Year’s resolutions being abandoned. At least on my unbirthday nothing really happened.    

At 1:30 I left the school with a smile and a B line approach to a pub of choice. I’ll raise my first wall to Honza’s linguistic prowess, the second one to Karolina’s etymological research, and the third to April 11, my unbirthday and the most boring day of the year.  

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