Time Passes

Dear J-

To the surprise of probably no one who knows me, I have no doubt a lot of watches, to the point where if I get lazy in the rotation some of them may stop from disuse; there are a lot of analog watches with hands showing the time and several digital models, all arranged in a row so that in the regular scheme of things, I can go weeks without changing out of a given mode: now analog, now digital. When I’m going on digital, you get hesitant about fractions of a minute: it’s 5:04:34, can you still make it all the way to Burlingame? When analog, you realize that time moves in fits and starts; now it’s 5-ish; later it’ll be … later.

Time is digital in nature, perhaps; it marches at a steady pace and you can tell what it exactly is if you have one of these so-called atomic watches, which regularly synchronize with the atomic clock radio signal from Boulder. It is habitual and punctual, by definition, fully defined and precise. But on the other hand I’ve walked around without a watch for weeks and months at a time in an attempt to obtain a better sense of reckoning, bolstered by occasional glances at clocks and the sun and after a while you get it: it’s about … this time or that, you have a few minutes or time’s up, let’s go. We can triage these things but it’s never subtle: either it’s time or it’s not, and let’s keep going forward.

Perhaps it’s the reliance or just the not-knowing that drives us towards precision; for a while I was setting my watch a few minutes ahead so I’d always be early, but after a day or two your brain adjusts to the trick and you end up subtracting, mentally, a few minutes here and there until you’re skating on the edge again. Without your own source you’re reliant on others to have set those wall clocks correctly (hint: don’t; it’s like assuming everyone washes their hands after using the bathroom) although I guess in this cell phone age we can all tell what time it is. Time is not a subtle thing, measured with maybes and sortas, unless you want it to be.


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