I have as good a grip on Time as I would understanding a lecture on quantum physics, delivered in Tulu.
Or more exactly, I understand the concept of time, just not its real-life applications.
To me, Time should be measured by the ebb and flow of our bodies and souls, not a clock or calendar. Go to sleep when you’re tired, wake up when you’re refreshed. Eat when you’re hungry, work when mind and body are fresh. Practice arts and crafts when you need fulfillment; shake your groove thang any damn time you want.
Alas, in an industrialized society, this doesn’t happen. You wake up, generally still tired, gobble your breakfast, and then rush off to work, in order to punch in without penalty. Your half-hour lunch break is when everyone else’s is, and so is quitting time. Dinner may or may not be a leisurely or even enjoyable affair. Then you hit the hay long after fatigue first set in, only to wake up to repeat the process, day after day, year after year, till you retire — if you can afford to. Otherwise, you drop dead in the traces, your boss tells your next of kin how everyone at Amalgamated Amalgamated will always remember you with love and respect…and six months later no one there even remembers your name.
I always understood the futility and folly of getting caught up in The Time Trap Frenzy, not because I was smarter than the average bear, but because when it came to measuring time in any objective fashion, I was as lost as Sir John Franklin et. al.
Into the dog house…
To me, Time has always been a metaphor — at best, a vague approximation of things taking place; at worst, a hopeless blur. I was about as aware of conventionally-measured time as Everett C. Marm. As a result, when left to my own devices, I’ve spent most of my life being late for everything.
A note of clarification: When dealing with Gears of Free Enterprise, I could play the game, lest they ground me to a pulp. I went to work on time and showed up for medical appointments on time. With everything else, my record is, to be kind, spotty.
I’m usually 10 minutes late for dinner dates, though I might be on time — if ravenously hungry. For play dates, a 15 minute lag time is usual rule. And ever since I retired, not only do I lose track of minutes, but sometimes even whole days. A few weeks ago I went into town on an early afternoon to drop off stuff at the post office and pick up my paper and shoot the breeze with my pals at the Enterprise. But when I got there, the post office was closed. OK, some weird national holiday, I figured, since it seems every day is now a national holiday. Then I crossed the street, only to find the Enterprise closed as well. Well, hells bells. Then, when I looked at my copy of the Enterprise, the mystery was solved: It was Saturday afternoon.
At least I always know when Wednesday is, since that’s when my column’s due. But with other days, all bets are off. This seems to happen most with my car appointments at Evergreen. But my appointment a couple weeks ago was one I made sure I wouldn’t miss. It was for a ball joint replacement, something neither I nor my car could afford to miss. So in the weeks leading to that fateful Monday, I kept reminding myself of the appointment, and when the time rolled around, I was all set.
Or so I thought…
While Monday was my Evergreen appointment, it was also Jen-X’s day off and I’d promised her we’d go hiking at 3:30, a small detail that completely slipped my mind till two o’clock, an hour before I had to drop off my car.
I was struck by both horror and guilt and felt like an utter pashkudnyak. Nonetheless, I rose to the occasion, called Jenn-X and delivered the bad news.
“I knew it!” she said. “I should never have planned on hiking with you.”
“Look, I’m sorry” I said, trying to keep the pleading tone out of my voice. “I screwed up. I blew it. I –“
“No,” she said. “I blew it. It’s my fault.”
“Your fault?” I said. “How could it be your fault.”
“Because I was dumb enough to think you’d actually be on time.”
“But…but…but…” I sputtered, “It wasn’t like I chose to miss our hike. Just is, the car repair is so important that…”
And I blathered on, like some moronic criminal trying to explain how he ended up standing over a corpse with a smoking pistol in hand. One pathetic excuse follow another, deluding myself that forgetting about us hiking on her day off was far less important than my car.
She, on the other hand, kept saying it had nothing to do with me, but with her being so foolish as to trust I’d show up when I was supposed to.
The back and forth went on for a bit, till racked with guilt and remorse, I hung up and took off for Evergreen. And when I got there, I had another big surprise du jour.
I went in and greeted Dave Smith, Evergreen’s Sergeant-Major Domo.
“Hi,” he said. Except it came out an interrogatory “Hi?”
Then he said, “Can I help you?’
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m here for my appointment.”
His All-American Boy features contorted in a bemused frown.
“Appointment?” he said. “You don’t have an appointment today.”
“I do,” I said. “For a ball join replacement.”
“Ball joint?” he said, obviously having been thrown an Eddie Feigner-thrown curve ball.
He looked down at his appointment book. Then he looked up and said, “You’re not scheduled for anything today.”
“Oh but I am,” I said, putting my official Evergreen appointment card on the counter, the card filled out by himself, himself. “Here it is in black and mauve. Read ’em and weep.”
He looked at the card, fanned through his appointment book again. Then he looked in his computer.
And sure enough, he’d given me the appointment, but had forgotten to write it in his appointment book. This led to a torrent of apologies, which I finally stopped, not wanting to see a Jarhead sob like a baby.
“It’s fine,” I said. Then, holding him in my steely gaze, I added in a stern, “Just give me another appointment, OK?”
He gave me an appointment for the next Monday. I thanked him, told him he was forgiven, and zoomed back home, where I changed into my hiking gear. And then, looking like the Patagonia Playmate of the Month, I zoomed over to Jen-X’s.
She opened the door, a look of shock on her face.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Gettin’ ready to go hiking with you,” I said.
“But your car?” she said.
“Car, shmar,” I said with a dismissive wave.
“How about the ball joint?”
“Ball joint, shmall joint,” I said. “C’mon, get your gear on. The woods are calling and time’s on the wing.”
“You mean you canceled your appointment, just so we could hike?”
“Hey, I’ve got my priorities,” I said. “The appointment’s been rescheduled.”
I tell you, the girl fairly melted. Plus she got a look of unbridled adoration that I hadn’t seen since the last time I watched Casablanca, when Ilsa Lund told Rick he had to make the decision for both of them.
Right then, I went from zero to hero in two seconds flat.
Now, I realize some of my more cynical readers might say I’d told a fib, if not an outright lie. And I’d be inclined to agree if Jen-X ever found out the truth. But she won’t, for one simple reason: She doesn’t read my column.
And since she doesn’t, I figure truth shmuth, it’s just a case of fair exchange is no robbery.