That Extra Hour

I woke up this morning, looked at the clock, and then realized with a bright surge of delight that we had “fallen back” an hour overnight.  So I rolled over and enjoyed a pleasant doze and some rambling dreams to commemorate the occasion.

img_7460After getting up, I made a fine cup of coffee and continued the celebration by walking around the house, changing the settings on all of the clocks that aren’t “smart” — which means pretty much every clock in our house except the ones on our cellphones and the computer — and relished rolling them back an hour.  I punched the new time into the clock on the microwave, and rewound the old-fashioned art deco clocks at our bedsides.  It’s all part of the ritual, as important to the proper observance of the time change as any aspect of any religious service.  Some people recite the Rosary, some people sing the Doxology, I happily engage in the Liturgy of the Extra Hour.

Because getting an extra hour on a Sunday that dawns bright and crisp and clear and full of possibilities is truly a cause of rejoicing.

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Family Time

   

 It’s Thanksgiving, the quintessential holiday for American families.  
It’s a holiday where each family tends to develop its own rich trove of traditions.  Maybe it’s a family football game before or after the feast.  Maybe it’s a particular food, like Aunt Gertrude’s oyster stuffing or cranberry sauce still maintaining the shape of the can from which it came, sliced to produce red hockey pucks.  Maybe it’s the rickety, riotous “kid’s table” where everyone under the age of 30 has to sit because the real dining room table can’t accommodate the whole clan.

But one of the biggest and most closely held traditions has to do with time — as in, when do you sit down for your meal?  Newly married couples learn to their astonishment that not every family eats at the same time.  Some people eat at noon, right after the parades end.  Some people eat at four, squeezing the meal in between the football games on TV.  So the newly married couple might eat two meals, one with each family, until they start to establish their own traditions.

I’ve never heard of anyone waiting until a more standard dinner time — say, 7 p.m. — to eat their turkey.    By then, most of us are chowing a cold turkey sandwich, pounding down a second piece of pumpkin pie, and groaning at our gluttony.

Wherever you are, and whenever you eat, Happy Thanksgiving!

An Extra Hour

“Spring ahead, fall back.”  The shifting of hours and the changing of clocks in connection with Daylight Savings Time has been going on for as long as I can remember.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to appreciate the “fall back” part of the process more and more.  What the heck!  It’s autumn, and it’s getting colder.  Why not stay snug in your warm bed for an extra hour?  And after staying out later than normal last night, getting home after midnight after enjoying the Buckeyes’ drubbing of Illinois at Ohio Stadium, the extra hour of shut-eye is even more welcome.  The fact that it’s a shivery 28 degrees outside just confirms the wisdom of this timekeeping sleight-of-hand.

So I’d like to thank the ever-creative Benjamin Franklin, who came up with the concept of Daylight Savings Time in 1784 as a method to save on candles.  I’d like to thank the New Zealanders, Brits, and Germans who helped to popularize the idea, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who implemented the idea in America as a war-time measure during World War II.  And I’d like to thank the United States Congress, which enacted the Uniform Time Act of 1966 to finally implement Daylight Savings Time as we now know it.

Ben Franklin was all of 78 years old when he came up with the idea for shifting clocks to save a candle or two.  You think the idea might have been motivated by the notion of getting an extra hour of sleep on a cold autumn morning?

Being On Time

Recently I had an appointment at a designated time. I was there early. The designated time came and went. About ten minutes late, things finally got underway.

I tried not to let this bug me, but deep down it did.

Growing up, I was taught that it is rude to be late. If you say you will be somewhere at a particular time, you should be there. My grandparents were famous for never being late. They drilled their punctuality habits into UJ and me — and old habits die hard.

I recognize that a few minutes isn’t a big deal, but I’ll always believe that not being on time shows disrespect. The tardy person clearly doesn’t value the on-time person’s time. I think it also shows other things. If you can’t organize your schedule to make your appointments, what else are you failing to manage or account for properly?

Some examples of self-centered tardiness are worse than others. The most egregious example I experienced occurred when a guy I was meeting was 25 minutes late, then showed up with his gym bag and breezily said he’d been working out. Seriously? I readily concluded that the guy was a selfish jerk, and I’ve never changed my mind.

If you want to make a good impression on me, please be on time! If you want to start out with two strikes against you, be late. And if you want to be on my shit list forever, bring along your gym bag, too.

Losing Track Of Time

I long ago stopped wearing a wristwatch, and when I arrived in Paris my smartphone — which has been my primary time-telling device for some years now — was out of network and not working.

007As a result, I’ve spent the last few days wandering this lovely city, happily oblivious to the time. Richard has a wristwatch, and there are clocks in the apartment we’re renting that we can check if we absolutely have to be somewhere by a specific time. There are even occasional clocks along the routes of our travels, like this beautiful clock found on one of the government buildings on the Ile de la Cite.

For the most part, however, we’ve been moving in response to our own internal rhythms, not the dictates of some infernal machine. We’re eating when we’re hungry, drinking when we’re thirsty, and resting when we’re tired. We know the sun goes down around 5 p.m. (We don’t really know what time the sun rises, because we’ve been sleeping late.) And we know when, after a long day of sightseeing, strolling, and eating some fine meals, it’s time to go to bed.

One of the real pleasures about this kind of trip is not being slave to a clock.

Time Versus Stress

Lately my commute to and from work has become more and more difficult.  It’s forcing me to make one of those tough choices that often confront modern Americans — between time and stress.

In days gone by I would leave the house a little before 7 a.m., encounter light traffic on 161, see a moderate increase in traffic as I moved onto I-270 and finally I-670, and then cruise down Third Street.  Absent an accident, I made it downtown in about 25 minutes and almost never had to stop on the freeway.

Those days, sadly, are over.  Even though I leave at the same time, traffic has gotten much worse.  I often hit bumper-to-bumper congestion as soon as I merge onto 161 and routinely have to come to a dead stop on I-270 and I-670 as I inch my way downtown.  It may be the increasing number of people who are living in the northeast part of town, or perhaps it’s a change in traffic patterns brought about by the highway construction that has occurred over the past few years.  Whatever the reason, there are many more cars clogging up my formerly free-wheeling route.

The bad traffic means more stress.  People who are frustrated by the gridlock change lanes abruptly.  Some drivers — always the ones in front of you, of course — make no effort to close up gaps between them and the traffic ahead, so cars cut in constantly.  You’re stuck behind a bus or a semi and can’t see what’s going on down the road.  When traffic comes to a sudden stop, you worry about whether the driver of the car charging up to your rear is paying attention or will plow into you because he’s been checking his Facebook page on his cell phone.

Avoiding this kind of nerve-jangling commute is why I started leaving the house just before 7 a.m. in the first place.  So now I’ve got a new choice — leave 15 minutes earlier and beat the increased traffic, or just endure the increased stress.  Today I’ve decided to sacrifice the time to avoid the stress, but I’m not particularly happy about it.

Yes, It’s November

It is November 1.  Today many Americans will shake their heads sadly and say to a loved one, co-worker, or friend:  “Wow, can you believe it’s November already?  This year really has flown.”

If you find yourself making such a scintillating observation, you need to face facts — you’re obviously getting up there.  There is no surer sign of aging than remarking ruefully on the rapid passage of time.  AARP enrollment scouts that have infiltrated the general population listen for such comments and immediately arrange for membership mailings to be sent to the speaker.  Salesmen of retirement planning products target such people for detailed sales presentations on the merit of annuities.  You may as well make permanent reservations at the “early bird” sitting at the nearest inexpensive cafeteria that gives the Golden Buckeye card discount, lay in a lifetime supply of bluing rinse, and hitch your trousers up to nipple height.

In case you’ve forgotten, young people never say such things.  If they even notice that another month has gone by, it’s probably because it means that Christmas is another month nearer and, perhaps, it’s time to start behaving so they have a reasonable chance of being rewarded by Santa Claus.  Or, they are excited about Thanksgiving and seeing whether they can eat even more turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie than they did last year.  Or, they’re in high school or college and are looking forward to that long winter break when they can sleep in even later, get together with their friends, and worry their parents when they don’t come home until 2 a.m.

So, if you’re tempted today to express sad surprise that November is here, do yourself a favor and refrain.  You’re only demonstrating that, mentally at least, you’re far along on the road to geezerdom.