Look, believe me, fourteen change.org petitions in my e-mail every single stupid day, I have heard your arguments for abolition. But if we got rid of Daylight Saving Time how would we know with certainty which clocks in the house we in fact never use? Hm? Give me an answer to that and then we can talk.
Over twelve percent of the population has noticed this phenomenon. You suddenly turn your eyes to pay attention to clock of some kind. Preferably one one of those fancy non-invisible clocks. The important thing is it shows time to the second. And the clock takes its sweet time getting around to advancing that second. It can take as much as a half minute to start, and then it goes puttering on at about one second per second. But flick your eyes away and back and you can have it go back to not moving.
So what’s going on here? And what’s with the people who aren’t always checking that their clocks are counting out seconds? Do they not worry about their clocks getting lazy? Do they not worry their clocks are just wrong when nobody’s looking at them? Do they figure it’s all right for clocks to slack off? Would you slack off if you were a clock? I have no idea how to get from this point to where I meant to go. Give me a second. This could take as many as eighteen minutes.
OK, I think I’ve got it now. Consider something else that we’ve all done. You go to Wikipedia to look up germanium. A couple seconds pass. You’re reading about Saul Wahl, who may have been King of Poland for the 18th of August, 1587. The important thing is after this you look up and it’s twelve days later. You’ve missed, like, four Kings of Poland, three Hapsburg Emperors, and the odd Apostolic King of Hungary. How did all that much time pass without your noticing even a little bit?
Consider another phenomenon. Remember as a child being able to finish watching the cartoons at 9 am, then spend about eight hours on experiments like lying on the floor trying to breathe so that a tennis ball rolls out of and back into your belly button before a sibling comes over and sits on your face? And when you were done with that it was still fifteen minutes until Password Plus started at 10 am?
And think of being a kid. Back then you didn’t have a clock. All you had was the inaccurate clock on you parents’ car dashboard. This is why you had the greatest accumulation of time when you were being driven somewhere. If you did have a clock it’s because you were one of those freak kids who was really really really into clocks. You had a watch that you had to wind, because that made it even more clock, and you forgot to wind it after three days. Which was fine because it had that little panel that showed the day of the month, from 1 to 31. You couldn’t imagine how it would handle the problem of February. No one has ever found out.
So what practical applications does this have? Well, for one, it means that if someone asks you to do something for just a couple seconds? If you don’t have your eye on some kind of timepiece, then there is no guessing how much time their project will consume. It might be half a second. It might be a four-year expedition that takes you to a foreign planet such as Mars. More often it’s having a meeting about coffee mug policy. But if you keep your eye on a timepiece and are clear about when a “couple seconds” have passed, you won’t have such unpredictable demands on your schedule. This will be because people will sigh and roll their eyes several times, and then finally stop talking to you altogether. This is what you wanted? Well, it’s your time, if you do it right.
Maybe you saw there was a pretty major thunderstorm in mid-Michigan last Saturday, what with how they evacuated the Michigan State University football stadium and the game was delayed for over three and two-thirds years before completion. (I maybe wrote that down wrong.) A storm like that’s all good fun except for all the flooding, of course. But where it got personal was it knocked out our power. Not sure how long; after an hour of this we left to see if anything good was left at the Halloween costume stores.
The annoying part of this was having to go around setting clocks on everything again. Whoever heard of spending the first weekend in November fiddling with the time on all their consumer electronics? And I know what you’re thinking. But I use the time changes judiciously, letting the clocks know just which ones are important enough to get changed right away and which ones we don’t even notice and let slide until, like, February. It makes them feel uncertain about their use, which causes productivity.
No, the real pain is in resetting the answering machine, which we still have on our land line, which we still have because shut up. For some reason our answering machine needs these aspects of the time set:
- Day of the week.
- Hour of the day.
- Minute of the hour.
- The current year.
And … that’s it. Not the month. Not the day of the month. Hit the ‘time’ feature and it will tell you that it’s, like, ‘Wednesday, 4:12 pm, 2017.” It doesn’t report the year when giving the time a message was left, because who ever needs the year of a message except for the first workday of the new year? It’s the most baffling user interface choice I have ever encountered that isn’t related to how iTunes handles podcasts.
Over twelve of you have noticed this phenomenon. It’s actually over twelve percent of you, but I’m supposing there’s more than a cent of you out there. There will be anyway. But you’ve seen this. You look at a clock. It’s got seconds on it. That second just doesn’t change. It sticks to whatever time it currently is (let’s say … 8:49:46) for a good long while. More than a second, as you figure it. Maybe five seconds. Maybe as long as fourth grade took. Finally as you’re about to get up and give the thing a good nudge it moves again, going back to about one second per second. Even then, though, look away and snap your eyes back and you might get the second frozen there again. What’s going on here, and why are clocks messing with us to see if we’re watching? Well, wouldn’t you mess with people like that, if you were a clock? What else would you have to do?
What’s important her is a fundamental principle of time. We only know time passes because we see something happen. Like, we see the time that a clock shows changing. This is a good one because we’ve put all our time sense into clocks. If we need to rely on ourselves we just guess that the time feels like three-ish, maybe, or that it might be a Thursday but it sure feels like when you’re at the zoo and get some hay or something stuck in your shoe just outside the camel enclosure. We use the clock to let us know that time is even moving.
Think back to childhood, if you have one. Remember how experiments like lying on your back seeing if you could breathe just right to make a tennis ball roll into and out of your belly button before a sibling came over and sat on your face? And you had to turn to biting? Remember how you could spend as much as four days straight at that between the last cartoon of the morning and the start of Password Plus on channel 4 and still have time to punch another sibling? Well, the last cartoon finished at 9 am, and Password Plus came on at 10. All that time was squeezed into under a single hour.
As kids we didn’t need clocks. We could just have experiences. The most we needed was the clock in school, and the clock in our parents’ car’s dashboard that was set to the wrong time. We would only feel time accumulating during social studies and while being driven somewhere you don’t want to go, probably in another state on a trip that would be fun if you weren’t stopping at educational spots and scenic overlooks where the picnic tables are all like two inches two high for where the bench seats are.
As adults we fill our lives with more clocks. Clocks on the nightstand, on your watch, on your phone, on your computer, on your other phone, on the wall, on the TV, the thing on the DVR that looks like it’s the time but actually is the channel number, on the toaster oven, on the other end of your computer’s screen, on a web page, on your Internet-connected Smart Towels, and on the car dashboard where it’s satellite-tuned to the right time. Every single one of these things is ticking off seconds and of course they add up. These days you can’t have one second of time pass without it being at least twelve seconds all at once.
If you’ve got a proper modern lifestyle you can get all your clock-ready things going and then notice that as best you can tell, 2010 was at most forty minutes ago. This is a sign that you have too many clocks in your life, multiply-counting all your time and slurping it up before you can tell it’s gone. Try de-clocking your surroundings; see how well you do if you get back to the basics of time, the way you did as a child. Then you had the inaccurate car dashboard clock, and a calendar to make sure you didn’t miss Christmas or your birthday, neither of which could ever happen. Maybe it won’t work, but if you do want to give it a try, I recommend you hurry.
Password Plus was never scheduled to air earlier than 11:30 Eastern/Pacific. You were thinking, believe it or not, of Card Sharks.
The power went out when I was showering yesterday morning. For a moment I thought, well gosh, what if civilization’s just come to an end. This was the sort of merry fanciful thought you could have about surprise power failures back in the 90s when we figured civilization actually had no reason to end. “What the heck, let’s keep it going another five years,” we’d say, every time the subscription notice came up, and if it was charging two bucks more a month that was all right. If we had kept the two bucks a month we probably would’ve done something stupid with it, like buying used VHS tapes of Bucky O’Hare to watch ironically or something. Bucky O’Hare is worth watching sincerely. It’s Biker Mice From Mars you have to watch with detachment.
This clouded up my day, since the ventilator fan in the bathroom stopped working. We’ve got a pretty muggy bathroom, one prone to storm fronts. We average about four tropical depressions per year just from ordinary showering, and the extra-long shower after the Poison Ivy Removal Expedition Of 2015 is credited with starting Hurricane Danny. (We were framed.) Without the fan going I have to leave the shower groping my way blindly through a steamy mass of bathroom rainforest, dodging spiders and sloths and the ooh-ooh-aah-aah birds. I also have to do that when the fan is on, but at least I’ve taken action. It’s never the results. It’s being part of the process.
And it messed up plans too. I had figured to call my Congressman’s office, like I’ve been doing once or twice a week all this year, to demand “how dare you?” It doesn’t accomplish much, although sometimes the poor staffer who has to take me admits, “I haven’t spoken with the Congressman about how dare I”, which is gratifying. Again, it’s all being part of the process. Also about discovering that turns out Congress office reps don’t have caller ID. At the least you’d think they’d ask me what I’m how-dare-youing them about. I used to have something in mind, but that took so much time. It’s just as effective if I go with whatever is in the news today. And without power, without the Internet, I wouldn’t have Twitter and they could totally call my bluff. So that was off.
The power company said the problem was an equipment malfunction. Probably could have guessed that. They couldn’t say, “sorry, we suddenly felt shy about sending stuff into your house without an explicit invitation”, not after they’ve been sending power into the house off and on for nearly ninety years now. Or “Rick forgot to renew our subscription and we let our civilization lapse,” since Rick hasn’t been at the power company in over two years now. Equipment not working right is about all they could go for.
They estimated power should be restored by 5:30 pm, which is disheartening to hear when it’s less than halfway through The Price Is Right. I know you never want to promise service is coming back before you’re absolutely sure it will be. Last time the Internet went out the company would only concede that service should be back by the end of Daylight Saving Time. I don’t know why the Internet company cares if there’s ever a Daylight Saving Time repeal and I don’t think they’re helping the issue by making threats like that. I’d have called my Congressman about that but see above.
Thing with a power failure like that is it’s the kind of snow day I get. I work from home, because I’ve kept my exact whereabouts secret from my boss and he doesn’t know where to come get me. As long as I have Internet I can connect to my office computer and delete e-mails about not leaving the fire door open, just as if I were on site. But in the circumstances, what choice do I have except to take a long lunch out at the bagel place? The only professional choice is to ponder how they have chocolate chip cream cheese these days while overhearing a table full of older white guys agreeing with each other about all these officials it’s unreasonable to hold accountable for what happens in a frat house.
When we got home the power was back. The snow day had passed, and all we had left was resetting the clocks. It could be as long as months before we have every clock in the house re-set, and we have to deal with the more popular clocks taunting those who’re so low-status they don’t get reset. House clocks have vicious, nasty social cliques.
This morning I left the shower fan off.
The card reader wants to know if I had an extremely satisfying shopping experience? What would an extremely satisfying shopping experience be? I was just there to pick up a prescription and some toothpaste. I can imagine ways that this would be unsatisfying, like if I picked up a tube of Crest and it burst into fire, but that didn’t happen. Surely an extremely satisfying trip requires more than just toothpaste not combusting? Does toothpaste even catch on fire? If not, could you use it to put out a fire? Why? It would have to be an extremely small fire and in that case couldn’t you just spray, like, mouthwash on it instead? Would that work? How does that help me figure out whether I’m “extremely” satisfied? I guess I didn’t find a new pair of cargo pants, but then I didn’t figure I was going to either. I just checked in case they had some. I have a lot of stuff I can’t do without having in my pants, such as my legs, quarters for pinball, and my iPod Touch. Cargo pants are good ways to satisfy those needs, since there’s more pockets than there are things to put in them. But if I didn’t get something I didn’t really expect to get am I satisfied? Anyway, someone please go to the soup aisle, get a can of lentil, bring it to the microwave aisle, warm it up, and bring it to me at the checkout lane. Thank you.
We had a power failure. Not a major one. Just one that hit as we were getting ready to go to bed on the hottest night of all time, cutting the air conditioner. The power company’s automated line explained that it was an equipment failure and it should be repaired no later than 8:30 am. The power got back on maybe an hour later, just after we’d found two of the three little contact lights we got for this sort of contingency. Also just when I’d taken the batteries out of one of them to try putting it back in and see if that made the light better. I lost the battery.
Still this sort of thing’s always a good chance to remind our appliances just which of them are important enough to get the time re-set right away and which ones are going to have to perform harder if they’re going to have the time. One of the important ones is the answering machine, which we have because we have a land line, which we have because what if we need to make a phone call during a power outage, which we couldn’t do because it’s a cordless unit and the base was out of power. Still.
As per the custom for answering machines the time-and-date set is on the bottom, in slightly raised print on the moulding, the same color as everything else. This is because designers hate users, and can you blame them? Anyway, the answering machine asks for a couple things to be set: the day of the week. The calendar year. The hour and minute. And that’s all it’s interested in. Because “Sunday, 9:42 pm, 2016” is a reasonable date stamp for a phone message. I am honestly delighted, and delighted to rediscover this every time we have a power failure, which I don’t want to have again because it’s so annoying.
Also, oven clock, no, we have not been accidentally overlooking you. Step up your game.
OK, once again, the thing with the clocks? The strange little boring magic-realist novel breaking out in our house where all clocks stop at about the same time? It’s still happening. The mantle clock, the one we’d maybe bring to the mysterious Clock Repair sign-hanger if we could remember the number? The other clock in the living room came to a stop at just about the same time as that. It’s just a dead battery, we think, but still. If some mysterious force is trying to freak us out, they’re going about it in the way that most makes us over-estimate how long is left in The Price Is Right.
In other updates, I am still not learning about the history of socks.
Oh, another mysterious little thing around the neighborhood. Somebody hand-stenciled a sign with a phone number and the words “Clock Repair”. And then nailed it to a telephone pole pretty near the big strip mall near here. No name or anything. It’s just an implicit promise that if you call this number you will acquire links with the world of clock-repairers who take enough pride in their work they want to advertise, but not so much pride that they want to say who they are or where to find them.
Plus they just hung the sign on one of the roads leading up to the mall, not actually at the mall or anything. I guess I don’t have a better idea where to hang signs on the street to find people with clock-repair-needs. But it’s hard shaking the idea they might do better with some more focused marketing approach, like picking houses at random and asking the residents if they have any clocks that aren’t clocking anymore.
The heck of it is, we have a clock that needs fixing. If they’d just come to us we could’ve worked something out. But now we have to remember to write down the number if it’s still there next time we see it. Don’t think too hard about that last sentence and just trust me that it’s there.
I’ll start this roster from close to home and work my way out. First is that the goldfish we finally moved back into the pond outside just aren’t eating algae. They look like they are, what with their being goldfish and the algae being algae. I would have imagined that an arrangement they could keep up with. But they’re not eating it, not nearly so fast as the algae’s growing. Some of the goldfish are going so far as to swim into the middle and hover worryingly still. I guess they’re doing what I would do if I walked into a room and was covered in a pile of powdered doughnuts. I mean, I wouldn’t leave either, and I guess I’d be annoyed if someone reached in with the pool grabber and poked me. So maybe that’s not mysterious on the part of those goldfish. But I’d be making clear progress in doughnut-eating in that case. I may not always know what to do, but I’m almost mastered doughnut-eating. Happy as the fish may be, they’re dragging down the house’s efficiency ratings and I’m considering calling in an expert. If you know of one please write in care of your television market’s local news-weather-and-traffic leader. I bet they’d like to know.
Down the block. That auto care shop that was having the weird passive-aggressive fight by way of its message sign? It finally put up a message to replace “The Cost Is Zero To Be A Decent Human Being” and it went over to “We Can’t Save Everyone But Everyone Can Save Someone”. So they were apparently getting back to their groove of messages that unintentionally inspire dread at the futility of existence. And then that message about saving someone lasted maybe a week and a half. Now it’s “Whether You Think You Can Or You Can’t You’re Right”. This inspirational messages has limitations. They’re not referring to your ability to just charm your way past a defensive perimeter and through the security cordon. They’re thinking more about whether you could get that Associate’s Degree in actuarial mathematics with night, weekend, and online classes. And even with small-scale things there’s limits. No matter how confident I am in how I spell “accommodation” today I can’t get the spell checker to agree I’ve managed to hit any word. I have to put it in quotes to fool it into not putting this ugly underline squiggle there.
I’m not asserting that the office-supply store down the street, the one with the showroom floor that seems to be nothing but task chairs pressed up against each other, is necessarily the front for some secret society maintaining a portal to a magical alternate dimension where possibly everybody is robot dinosaurs. But I did stop in recently because I needed some manilla envelopes. I figured, why not support a neighborhood business that’s got an extremely faded poster in the window for Space Pens? OK, because I terrify the woman working the showroom what with not making enough noise going in and her coming out of the back room not expecting a tall, beareded man seeking manilla envelopes there. I’m sorry.
Thing is, they didn’t have manilla envelopes. At least she couldn’t find any. They had a small stock of actual office supplies, with most o the showroom being dust-covered task chairs. She was able to find a couple envelopes, but they were kind of peach or maybe salmon-colored. I was looking for manilla envelopes because I needed some paper folded up and glued together so that other paper could be put inside it, to then put the envelope inside a filing cabinet, there to be lost. The color didn’t matter. I had to promise that it was all right they had peach envelopes. I trust they got them from their warehouse supplier in that alternate timeline where history has proceeded just like it has here, only envelopes are colored weird.
So there’s this bowling alley not too far off. Rumor is it used to be a city park, for some reason, and I don’t know anyone who understands why or whether it is anymore. I’d go and ask them but I’m worried they would try explaining bowling to me. “You know how it’s fun to knock stuff over? What if you could knock stuff over in a manner tolerated by society? And have a machine pick things up to be knocked over again? And, from 10 pm, with a blacklight and a diffracted laser turned on?” The proposition sells itself. I don’t need to have that explained to me.
What I do need to be sold on, if I read their sign right the other day, was traffic hazard cones. It was in traffic and I was driving so I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it but they were going to have a sale on traffic hazard cones? Which is somehow something you can just do at bowling alleys? I mean, I understand needing traffic hazard cones. And you have to get them from somewhere. I just wouldn’t have thought the bowling alley.
All told this is a mysterious neighborhood.
We had a Christmas lights timer that over New Year’s stopped working. It had this simple mechanism, a dial that turned over the course of the day, with lights turning on or off based on whether the pin for that time was in or out. But it stopped at about 8:00. And it got stuck again, and again. Something was stuck in it.
Finally we got desperate enough to avoid other chores to open it up and see if we could fix it. The timer had this outer dial with the in-out pins and, when taken apart, it turned easily without getting stuck. The inner clock mechanism turned easily too. We put it back together — after turning the outer dial and the inner gears some crazy number of times — and it got stuck, consistently, at 8:00 again. That was a little creepy, so we took it apart again and turned the dials some more so at least it would get stuck at a different time on the clock face. But that didn’t work, and it got jammed at 8:00 again. It still does.
Now, we’ve got a mantle clock. It’s charming and gives us a regular steady ticking noise so that we can reflect on how much of the day is going by without our doing anything worth note. Also how we really ought to get the chimes fixed but that’s so hard to do. And it stopped, though it was fully wound, at a little before 8:00. We started it up again and it stopped at about the same time.
And then my love’s watch also stopped at about 8:00. That was easy to explain, as it’s a holiday watch with little decorative bits that came loose and sometimes jam the machinery. It just needs to be shaken and it goes again. However:
There’s a house in mid-Michigan where analog clocks consistently stop at eight o’clock-ish? So far this is the most boring magic-realist novel ever.
I haven’t got any jokes about the end of Daylight Saving Time for the year because I’ve looked into it and nobody has any jokes about the end of Daylight Saving Time for the year. I see folks trying, but I’ve seen jokes before and they’re coming up way short of them. Plus even mentioning Daylight Saving Time is dangerous because when you do you get swooped down upon by people who rabidly hate it with the white-hot passion of a million disaffected fanboys, who’ll inform you that the time change is directly and immediately responsible every year for more than 224,000 adorable little schoolkids bursting into flame when sleep-deprived drivers run them down. I don’t buy it, of course; numbers that high suggest the drivers are using the pretext to get their cars set on fire. But I’m sure not going to get into that fight.
In the kitchen we’ve got this clock that picks up the time from the atomic clock radio station, which isn’t actually the dullest radio station I’ve ever listened to, and adjusts its time to fit. It’s an analog clock face, so when it adjusts the time it does by rolling the second hand forward really, really quickly, about twelve times normal speed, and the minute and hour hands follow. The result of this, and I’m not joking here, is that it takes about five minutes to rattle ahead a full hour in spring. To rattle ahead the eleven hours that it needs to do to fall back, though, takes it about 55 minutes. I’m just delighted that it can spend an hour rattling around to get done what it could do as easily by sleeping in an hour. It feels like every conference call I’ve ever been on.
Me, I spent the extra hour efficiently, getting done all the blinking I’d had planned for the next week.
Now that the clocks around here all know which one’s the least important we can finally advance the microwave clock to Daylight Saving Time. It’s a harsh policy, a little heartless, but it’s the easiest way to make sure the clocks keep urging one another to greater productivity. The best time with this was a couple years ago when I had clocks on all four walls in the living room, and they were able to keep each other encouraged. Some of them got working so hard they’d fit up to 26 hours of time into every day and everything past the first 24 hours is, of course, pure profit.