Five minutes early (or five minutes late)


When you have to adjust the clocks in your house, how do you do it?

We all know the drill. Maybe itís one of those two times a year when the hours shift. Spring ahead, fall asleep for an hour, something like that. Or, maybe the power went out for a bit. Whatever the case, displays flashing or not, there you are needing to get a few of the clocks back on track.

How do you do it?

Do you bring your cell phone with you? Maybe glance at it in every room and make sure that as you wander around the house all of the clocks get set pretty darn close to the same time. Or, do you take a quick look, and then set every clock in the house to 5:23pm. Doesnít matter that you get to the last clock ten to fifteen minutes after the first clockÖ 5:23pmÖ 5:23pmÖ 5:23pmÖ because sometimes itís just easier to adjust your life to the idea that the kitchen clock is eight minutes slow.

I was wondering about this as I left the grocery store. (I know. And it was odd. But tangents connect as tangents connect. SeeÖ)

The store I was in had just changed ownership. New group in place, loyalty card for the previous store no longer worked. But instead of signing up at the customer service desk or whatever, all you needed to do was enter your cell phone number on the pad near the cashier while checking out.

The cashier had told me I might get a welcome text, so I was looking at my phone as I walked back to my car, and when I sat down I happened to notice the clock on the dashboard was off by a few minutes.

For whatever reason, I can tell you that even if I do double-check the time as I set every clock, within a few weeks a handful of them will be noticeably different. We could talk about why that is, but the why isnít really the important part. Instead, the trickier part is that I could find three or four clocks that have a five-minute disparity, and thereís a chance that I donít know which one is actually right. (Thereís also a chance I donít really care. (Actually, not just a chance. Itís close, and I really donít care.))

Technology is a funny thing. My phone adjusts to the time all on its own, no help from me. Computer does that as well. So do the boxes hooked up to deliver television service.

And yet I still have several clocks in my house that have some version of a classic standard clockface, with moving hands, that need to be spun around in order to set them. They donít blink to tell me the power went out. And, occasionally I do a double-take when I look at them, realize they are way off, and it takes a moment to dawn on me that the battery needs to be replaced.

It didnít take me long to understand that my dogs had no use for time as a specific concept. In the morning, as the light began making attempts to creep around miniblinds and curtains, they would wake up at the same point every morning. It didnít matter what the clocks said. It didnít matter if it was a magical day where I was supposed to get an extra hour of sleep. The sun had arrived, they were awake, and it was time to go outside and get the day started.

So, sure, all these items that self-adjust are able to tell me what time it is. But time doesnít actually exist. Itís just a way weíve learned how to communicate, or more specifically to have a common way to define events. It tells us when to be at work. Tells us when to meet friends for dinner. Tells us when the game is supposed to start.

Time is being twisted in all sorts of crazy ways. Twisted as I never would have expected as a child. What had been a Monday to Friday, nine to five, has shifted to twenty-four-seven. You can head out to the store any time of day. And even that is gone, since the internet will allow you have groceries brought to your doorstep without ever having to change out of your pajamas. (Not that many people actually do change out of their pajamas to go to the store these days. Different essay for that.)

How do you track your twenty-four hours each day? Is it specifically important to you? Or does it matter if the living room and garage donít agree by five minutes?

Maybe all that matters is why we need to know.


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