About Time

This post: Clocks, time, and memories. This entry is a complete time waster. No real news, no house progress, only one photo.

Clocks have been in the news in our household lately. Neither Cynthia nor I wear wristwatches. We have one clock in the bedroom and one on the wall in the kitchen. And of course, the time is displayed on our cell phones, computers, and on the radio display in the car. The cell phones, computers, and the car clock are not easy to glance at unless you are working with them at the time.

So in effect, only the bedroom and kitchen clocks keep their faces in our faces, giving information to us even if we aren’t needing it at the moment. A few weeks ago, time ran out for these two clocks and they kicked the bucket. Simultaneously, right on time. True, they were still correct twice a day as they say. But life was a different experience without these two time pieces.

I noticed that I really didn’t need to check the time when I got up in the morning. Daylight happens about 5:30 to 6:00 and I wake up. Armando arrives about 8:00 most days, and I found that the morning routine of shower, dress, blow on my oatmeal to cool it and eat it, clean the cat box, and activate the walkie talkies pretty much gives me a few minutes to spare until Jabo announces the arrival of Armando’s bus. After some initial adjustment, punctuality and clock-fixation-angst became moot.

I noticed that I reliably get hungry for lunch about noon. I don’t need a clock for supper either, as Jabo, the cats, and the chickens and our own bellies relay that information. Law and Order comes on the TV just before dark every day of the year here near the equator. Later in the evening after I’ve checked email, etc., I spend an hour or so in the dark in the hammock on the patio. Our watchdog Jabo and I bond and play, and when he has had his fill, this long-legged dog gets up in one of the plastic chairs near me, curls into a ball, and takes a cat nap. At the appropriate time, both he and I decide that it is bedtime and I head for bed and he heads for his crate.

Here’s a photo of our watchdog, Jabo:

I've got time on my hands. Go ahead. Make my day.

Who needs clocks when you are retired and living in the tropics? No one, as far as I can tell.

But the other day when we were checking out the Discovery store in the city, they had clocks. Lots and lots of clocks, nearly an entire aisle full of clocks, and they were cheap. With so many clocks, I thought that maybe they were selling the clocks cheap so that we would be lulled into paying a Time Service Provider a monthly fee for the time. If you don’t pay, they stop the clocks and then what would we do? It’s like cell phone vendors who include the phone at no cost just so you will pay monthly for the rest of your life. Nice work if you can get it.

I thought again about my idea for an invention. I would like to have a digital wristwatch that every second, or even better randomly, simply flashes “NOW.” “NOW.” “NOW.” It could be programmable in 17 fonts and 28 languages. An aqua neon display would be nice.

Still in the clock aisle of Discovery, there were round clocks, oval clocks, square clocks, and one clock where it looked like all the numbers had fallen off the face and landed at the bottom of the clock. I remember that my father said that time was circular and that clocks should be round. Period. He was an architect and also objected to front doors that didn’t fit with the architecture of the house. He called them Door Of The Month Club doors. But I digress.

So we looked at each other, Cynthia and I, and one of us, I can’t remember who, declared that something was missing and that it was time (4:19 precisely) to replace the clocks. So we did. $5.99 each.

Given those few weeks of clock freedom, I now find that clocks are somewhat of an intrusion. I think I liked not knowing for sure, depending on my own inner timekeeper and the rhythm of the natural world all around us. Now when I pass those two beacons of fleeting seconds, minutes, and hours, I do my best to avert my eyes. But it doesn’t always work, like when you rubberneck past an accident scene. Try as a you might, the magnet draws the eyes.

On another somewhat time-related theme, I recently told Cynthia a few stories from my military boot camp experience many, many years ago. I told her how I, a mid-height white kid from New England and Shelly, a very tall black kid from the south side of Chicago, hit it off. He looked out for me, but I’m not sure what I did for him. Maybe I taught him how to be superlative but invisible, to not stand out, to blend in, meld if you will. It seemed safer that way. For a long time, I had a photo of us standing together, me up to his armpit with his arm swung over my head.

One night Shelly was standing watch and the Officer of the Day (OD) started climbing the stairs to our barrack. Shelly appropriately called out, “Halt, who goes there?” The OD hollered out, “Superman,” to which Shelly snapped back, “Well fly your ass up here and get i-dentified.” I can’t remember the outcome of the exchange, although I can imagine Shelly ended up on the wrong end of that schtick.

Toward the end of our twelve weeks of boot camp, it was time for our off-base liberty. Near Chicago, Shelly invited me home to his house. Being 1967 and the recent race riots around the country, I was concerned. But Shelly told me just to stick close to him and nothing would happen to me. So I went along. His parents and family treated me well, even warning me to what chitlins were made of. I remember that the whole bunch of us packed into their car and we went to the movies. I remember that his sister and I flirted a bit and we sat next to each other.

Now here is where the topic of time comes in. I told Cynthia that we saw the movie, Shaft. I remember seeing the big poster for the movie. I remember the popcorn. I remember the family talking about wanting to see the movie. But Cynthia said to me, “Shaft didn’t come out until 1971.” (She knows that trivia.)

Dumbstruck, I had to Google it and sure enough, 1971 it was, not 1967. (She had that “I told you so” look on her face.) But it was such a crystal clear memory, just as if it had happened, well, forty-five years ago. It begs the question, “What else don’t I remember correctly?” Was I in boot camp in 1967 or 1971? If I am ever in court, should I just automatically respond, “I don’t recall, your honor.” Remember Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes? “I know nu-thinggg!” Carl Sagan might ask the question, “Did the past really happen at all or are we just hallucinating? Is the present really happening?” Greater minds than mine will have to figure that out. Maybe there’s an app for that.

I now understand how three people can witness an accident or a crime and report three different versions of what happened. “He wore a red baseball cap.” “No, it was beige.” “No, he wasn’t wearing a hat.”

I have to question even more. Did I really graduate high school as salutatorian? Did I almost die in hurricane Camille in Biloxi Mississippi? Did I really used to live in the United States of America? (Answer to this last one, “Yes.” I had to check my passport.)

I have to say that this has really shaken me. I’ve never smoked pot in my life, so I know the Shaft experience wasn’t a drug-induced fantasy. I was a real fan of The Twilight Zone; maybe I was pulled unknowingly into an episode. Who knows? Who knows?

So I’m wondering. Has this ever happened to you? (I’m looking for company and moral support here folks.) Feel free to relate your mal-memories in the comment section below. Please be cool; I’ll delete stuff I don’t like. It’s my blog.

Cynthia usually reads my posts before I publish them and does a little proofing. She said it was about time I wrote this one. Good one, Cynthia.