Friday, January 27, 2023 Jan 27, 2023
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PARTING SHOT

After All, It’s Just A Matter of Time-I Think
By Chris Tucker |

Got a minute? I’ve spent hours just lately thinking about time, something that’s in very short supply these days. So, in the spirit of scientific inquiry that we celebrate this month, I thought I should report my findings to someone. The clock’s running, so let’s get right to the point. Time has fascinated me for a long time-forever, I suppose, or at least that part of forever that I know something about. Time surrounds us, changes us, and finally destroys us, but we know almost nothing about it. Or perhaps I should speak for myself. Somebody must know something about the licking stuff, because A Brief History of Time, the impenetrable tome by the physicist and genius Stephen Hawking, has been on the best seller list for more than forty weeks now, even nosing out The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure. A glance through the Hawking mindbender convinces me that it’s a book to be seen and not read in many homes (my own included), but such sales prove that scads of people are taking time to ponder time. Other highdomes like Isaac Asimov (The Measure of the Universe) and Jeremy Rifkin (Time Wars) have also weighed in on the subject.

Now journalists are always hot tor new trends, but I’m not sure it’s time to declare a time boom. After all, time has haunted our poets and novelists for ages. Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets liken time to a devouring lion or some other destructive force, and Milton greeted a birthday with this lament: “How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, Stol’n on his wing my three-and- . twentieth year.” (Match that, Hallmark.) My quotation book lists more than 300 timeless quotes about time, reminding us that we cannot kill time without injuring eternity. Lost lime is never found again, Time is the great legalizer. Time heals young pain. Art is long though time is short. And there’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.

But time boom or not, I remain a chronological illiterate. What 1 know about time can be summed up in the old Jim Croce line: there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them. Call me naive, but I’m still pretty im-pressed by what the government has pulled off with daylight-saving time. Imagine being able to alter time itself! I feel grateful and miraculously younger when we get that hour back each fall, and I always plan to do something special with it. Unfortunately, it always gets mixed in with all the other hours. Then they take it back in April.

Maybe time intrigues me because (blush) I’ve always had an uncanny sense of time. I forget names the moment I’m introduced to someone and I can never quite find southeast, but let me see the time once in the morning and I can usually call it within a couple of minutes the rest of the day. And that’s why I don’t wear a thousand-dollar watch. Just don’t need one, see.

We’re going to get philosophical here, so buckle up: what is our sense of time (I assume I’m not alone) a sense of? What is it we know when we know that an hour-sixty minutes, 3,600 seconds-has passed? Can you touch a minute, stash an hour in your desk, save time in a bottle? The well-educated tell me that all our measures of time are just handy tools dreamed up to make commercial society possible. We needed a way to say, “Be here with the bearskins on Friday at ten a.m., and don’t be late.” Well, you can’t be on time if there’s no time to be on, and you can’t be late if there’s nothing to be later than. So we see that time was invented by people who were sick of excuses (“Ten a.m.? What’s that?”) and wanted to be sure they got their bearskins.

The artificiality, the downright phoniness of clock time can be glimpsed in a simple football game. As I pound the armchair, praying for a long bomb that will rescue the point spread, my wife yawns and asks how much time is left. “Minute thirty,” I hiss between clenched teeth. But she has learned a basic lesson in the relativity of time. “Is that real time?” she asks {meaning, I guess, the unceasing flow of whatever is being measured by the clock on the mantel). “Or is that football time?” (meaning the more flexible stuff that can be stretched out by penalties, “instant” replays, timeouts, injuries, etc.).

Pardon some familiar kvetching, but even with all our wondrous machines, we don’t get along with time one bit better than our ancestors did back before the days of talking elevators and computerized cash registers. Yes, we’re the techno-heaviest society since time began, whenever that was (ask Professor Hawking). But all the opinion surveys say that people today feel they have less leisure time than they did ten years ago. Too many of our gizmos don’t really “save1’ time, they just trade it for something else. Before anyone had call waiting, for example, we just accepted busy signals as a fact of life. Now we fume at wasting time on repeated calls, and we pity the primitive dweebs who are so unimportant they never get two calls at once. Or take another problem, one that’s worsened since last mentioned here. If you’ve gotten used to speeding through the commercials on programs you’ve taped-or skipping them altogether in rented movies- you soon take that “saved” time for granted, and a new irritation is born. Your thumb itches for the fast-forward button when you watch regular old TV, stuck in the network’s definition of time.

If clock time, social time, is not real, how about subjective time-the way we experience time? (Heck, we’ve come this far.) Obviously, time does not always feel the same way. An hour spent necking with your sweetheart is just not the same as an hour in the dentist’s chair. And remember how different time was when you were a kid? I thought nothing of walking four blocks to a convenience store, even when I had to be back in an hour. An hour seemed like plenty of time to walk there, get a cold drink, read some comics, then walk back.

Now consider that same “hour” in the life of an adult. It’s 9:15. You grab a cup of coffee, open two letters, get a phone call, find that you’re out of tape, walk to the supply room, and zap! It’s 10:15. The subtle thief has struck. And if a friend proposed a four-block walk to a restaurant, just to sit for fifteen minutes and walk back, you’d think he was crazy. You’d tell him not to waste your time. Whatever that is.



SPEAKING OF TIME, IT’S TIME ONCE AGAIN for the biennial ME FOR MAYOR write-in campaign. You know you could run this city, but you forgot to file, or you can’t live on $50 a meeting, or you don’t like to shout. So here’s your chance to sound off. We’ve got trouble right here in River City. What would you do about our problems? Send your plat form (limit 200 words, please) to ME FOR MAYOR, D Magazine, 3988 N. Central Expwy., Suite 1200, Dallas. Texas 75204. We’ll print some of the best ideas, whether wise, witty, or outrageous, on this page before the election. Deadline is March 10. Please don’t call: no time to chat.

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