ABBA’s The Day Before You Came is something of a puzzle. It’s a great song but one which poses an inscrutable mystery. I’ll explain.
The singer leaves her house at 8am as usual. Her train leaves the station just when it is due, she reads the morning paper, frowns at the editorial and makes her desk at 9.15am (approximately). Having read some letters and signed heaps of papers, she then goes to lunch at 12.30pm (approximately).
At 2.30pm she lights her 7th cigarette of the day. Having dragged through the business of the day, she leaves work at 5pm (without exception). She gets the train home, reading the evening paper en route (possibly frowning at the editorial a second time).
At 8pm (approximately) she arrives home, having stopped along the way to pick up some Chinese food (to go). She then eats this while watching Dallas on TV (she has never missed an episode). She goes to bed at 10.15pm (approximately) and reads a book by Marylin French* (or something in that style) for a while before turning out the light and going to sleep.
The inconsistency may not appear immediately obvious. You may worry that if the singer is on her 7th cigarette by 2.30pm then she’s got a 20-a-day habit, but for all we know she only lights the cigarettes and doesn’t smoke them.
The problem lies with her commute into town. On the way in it takes one hour fifteen minutes. On the way back, it takes three hours! Even allowing for stopping along the way to pick up some Chinese food to go, there’s a serious time discrepancy there. What does she do with the missing two hours?
Answer: She has a two-hour commute – which crosses an international date-line!
* Or Barbara Cartland (Blancmange version)