February 24th, 2004

krazy koati

Better remember, lightning never strikes twice

When did time become privatized?

I've been without a watch for nearly two years now. It's a classic self-created problem almost archetypical of me. My old watch -- a decade-old thing picked up at Best for about twenty dollars -- had lasted long enough that I'd spent more money replacing the batteries than I spent on the original watch. At that I'd probably have replaced the batteries again, but it was a calculator watch and all the buttons were worn wholly out, with tiny fragments of rubber in a few buttons all that was left. I wanted a calculator watch for which I could use the calculator.

Been shopping for a calculator watch lately? The abundant land of Casios with power approaching that of the Apollo Guidance Computer which we enjoyed in the early 1990s is long gone, and I can't find a satisfying one (defined as one with panel-type buttons, not rubber nubs that fall out). So I go without, until such time as I find one that's just right. (One that I almost got anyway combined being a watch with being a universal remote; no calculator, though. And it seems it'd be too hard to use, but it would be cool in a nerdly way.)

Meanwhile I have to depend on the clocks of strangers. I don't have a tight schedule, granted; the only thing I really need to start and finish on time is the classes I teach. Once I get started I know from stage practice about how long the lecture should be, and about when I should wrap up; but when do I start? Obviously the thing to do is glance at a clock a few minutes before and not worry about hitting exactly 10 a.m., but ... what clock?

It used to be one of the centerpieces of any town was the civic clock, that kept time for the city and saved people the expense and trouble of having their own timepieces. There are a few echoes of this nowadays, clocks still hung outside banks mostly from inertia, or put on a headline scroll outside a newspaper office, but otherwise ... The only timepieces I can find on campus that just diffidently show the time to any and all lookers are the panels on card-access doors, which show the current time plus or minus ten minutes. They're not there so people can know when it is; they're there because they need to show something that proves the access lock isn't crashed, and most of them are mis-set.

Shopping malls, allegedly, have no clocks so that people will not notice how much time they spend there. The buses have time readouts on the pads you tap the fare card on as you board or exit, but they're not there as a public service. The receipt from the library will tell you what time you checked the books out, if you check some out. And otherwise? If you want to know the time pay for the privilege. If you won't buy a watch, buy something somewhere and look at the time stamped on the receipt. The community doesn't care if you know when it is, but don't mess things up by being late.

Trivia: Charles Schulz's first published drawing was a submission to Ripley's Believe It Or Not, a drawing of his dog Spike. Source: Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others, Charles M. Schulz.

Currenty Reading: Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury.