Say a person says to you, “I was in Japan last night.” You had just seen him the day before, and so you might quickly calculate how many hours it would take for a flight to Japan, how long he could have stayed there and then flown back; and, perhaps you would unduly confuse yourself by thinking, “Perhaps the time-zone shift is such that yesterday is today and today is actually tomorrow’s today because of the international time-zone shift”, or some similar nonsense as that which often confuses and confounds us all (in fact, isn’t that how we always feel when we must change the clocks for that “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back” period?).
You study the person’s features and determine that he looks refreshed, without a hint of sleeplessness. Upon coming to the conclusion that, No, it is not possible that your friend had actually gone to Japan and back, you say to him or her: “What do you mean by that?” The person says, “Just what I said. I visited Japan last night. I went on a tour of Kyoto, a couple of shrines, saw the cherry blossoms and had a couple of meals and drank some sake and then went to bed.” And you take that sliver of an opportunity — that phrase, “I visited” combined with, “then went to bed”, and with suspicious deliciousness as of a genius private detective who has singularly uncovered a mystery, declare: “Aha! You mean you were on your computer and took a virtual tour of the country!” To which your friend says: “You can put it that way. I say that I was in Japan last night.”
In this world where virtual reality and reality itself has been conflated, the words we use have similarly broken out of their previous state of rigidity. Whether of “alternative truths” or misstatement of facts, the malleability of language has had to adapt and conform to the changes of reality. Is there a distinction with a difference between a person who takes a “virtual tour” of a country, as opposed to actually, physically flying there and walking about the lost ruins of Peru? To the question, “So, did you visit the Sistine Chapel while there?” — both and either may provide a detailed description of their independent and individual experiences, and do so convincingly; and even to the question, “Were you really there?” — the answer can be identical and yet truthful.
Yet, there are some things in life that still defy conflating virtual reality with the “real” reality — such as injuries or disabilities. For, “virtual” injuries and “virtual” disabilities do not impact the identical experiential phenomena of the “real deal”, and for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a real medical condition such that the reality of that condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, you may want to consider filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits.
Before you do that, however, consult with a “real” Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Lawyer, lest a “virtual” one provides you only with virtual advice, in which case it won’t be worth any more than a virtual dollar used to pay for a virtual meal.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire