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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All Along the Watchtower

I have an ongoing theory that wristwatches are a crutch used by modern man in an attempt to control his universe through the psycho-manipulation of time. For those not quite so inclined, it also can serve as a security blanket, giving stricter definition to one's daily agenda. Watches are essentially a technological concoction to further adorn ourselves — an extension of the jewelry concept, combining elegance with progressivenes. And that is why I don't wear watches. I like to stay free from time, not let it bog me down.

Same idea with phones. You should never answer a phone except under very extenuating circumstances. And never carry one around with you, either — that's inviting a world of trouble. It could be that we're raising a society of phone slaves. The ringer goes off, and people scramble to answer their master. "Yes, master, what would you command me to do?" Incidentally, the word 'hello' is spelled that way for a reason. It's Latin for hades-on-the-wire.

But back to watches, one has to wonder how civilizations ever survived before the advanced technology of an armband timepiece became available. That's when civilization really started taking off, because then we were finally equipped with the necessary tools for taking on the day. Did you know it's currently 10:23? Yes, indeed. I can confirm that on my forearm at this very moment. Says it right here. Oh, wait. Stand by... It's now 10:24. We are progressing along very nicely through our day, and I am chronicling it with this fine piece of micro-machinery. I also predict in another minute it will be 10:25, but that's just a guess. My watch will confirm that for me shortly. Ask me at any time of the day, because I'm literally armed with the facts.

This gets back to the psychological origins of the watch. Why is it important to know at all times what the position of the sun is? We already have clocks inside every building (unneeded, by the way). And cars have them too. Isn't that plenty? Why should we need one strapped to an appendage? Is there some end-of-the-world sequence that will necessitate our knowing precisely how many seconds have elapsed since lunch? Are we expecting to be quizzed on it? Or is it just so when somebody asks what time it is, you won't look dumb? The real answer to "what time is it?" is simply: "It's now." Plain and simple. No need to complicate the matter any further.

Why do people keep looking at their watches? Are they insane? This is the procedure: Wonder what time it is? Look at watch. Oh. Hmm... Wonder what time it is? Look at watch. Oh. Hmm... Wonder what time it is? Look at watch. Oh. Hmm... Very invigorating, and an excellent way to expand the modern mind.

I got my watch, my camera cell, my calculator (in case I have to use multiplication), my handheld, my headphones, my pedometer (to make sure I don't walk too far), my bi-focals that automatically adjust to light, my hearing aid (another iPod accessory), my pacemaker, and my implanted v-chip. I'm all set. I'm post-modern regalia man — hear me roar.

This gets back to another fundamental question: Do we need specified time to arrange gatherings — to be sure that everybody gets there about the same time? If we were better managers of time, perhaps we wouldn't feel compelled to cram so much into a day that we didn't have enough breathing room for the slightest of unscheduled moments. Maybe if we weren't in such a hurry to get to the next place, we could hang out in one spot longer and be casual about people showing up whenever they wanted to.

The only timepiece we should really need is our sleeping pattern. Go to sleep when it gets dark, and wake up when it gets light. Want to meet someone? Tell them to show up sometime between those two events (but make sure you specify in the right order). You get there when you get there. It works for cable TV technicians. Besides, where technically is that proverbial fire anyway?

Jerry Seinfeld pointed out that people are always trying to save time, but when they get to the end of their lives, they're going to be very surprised that there's no extra time saved up.

People are in just too much of a hurry. Families have a hard time sitting down together for dinner at the same time. Heck with dinner — just grab something at Burger King (fast food). And then hardly anyone even slows down to 2 or 3 mph at a stop sign anymore, let alone stop. And gotta zoom through that stoplight at all costs so I can manage my time well today... Road rage, road rage... you lousy two-bit driver — get out of my way so I can efficiently manage my time today, you neanderthal! And nobody's obsessed with their careers. All is well. There's nothing to see here — move along. Are there any psychologists out there who can corroborate any of this?

The passage of time is a psychological manifestation of progress, and often we derive a sense of fulfillment from time passing, as if something has been accomplished — one more thing to check off our list. Even when we know an event will end at the top of the next hour, we have a tendency to keep looking at our watches or the clock as if to help the time along, rather than just let it happen. As if looking at the clock is going to make it come sooner... We feel in a rush for time to go by in those situations. I believe it's often an attempt to maintain control over our own little world. I wonder if the powers above would like us to stop asking them, "Are we there yet?" and just enjoy the ride on earth.

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