Time Is On My Side (yes it is!) by
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(298 Stories)

Prompted By Time

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Daylight Savings Time starts tomorrow. Harumph! I expect that I will feel grumpy and out of sorts for the next week. It doesn’t make sense to me why it is so disruptive, considering I am retired and not on any particular time schedule. I just know that every time we “spring ahead” or “fall back” it messes me up for several days.

Daylight Savings Time starts tomorrow. Harumph! I expect that I will feel grumpy and out of sorts for the next week.

People have such different attitudes about time. My first husband was always late. When we were dating, I almost broke up with him a couple of times when he kept me waiting for an inordinate period of time (cue The Kinks, “So tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you-u-u”). My second husband is always early. Certainly preferable to being late, but I don’t really like being early either. I always aim to be right on time.

As a small child, I don’t think I had much conception of time. I have no specific memory of learning how to tell time, but it was probably after I started school. Every classroom had a big black and white clock on the wall, and we all must have wanted to know when it was time for recess or lunch.

The first watch I ever owned was an Omega, brought back from Switzerland by my parents when they went to Europe in the summer of 1962. I was eleven years old, about to start seventh grade, and very proud of this watch. I knew I needed to shake my arm now and then to keep it running. It was called self-winding, which meant that it was powered by the movement of the wearer’s wrist, rather than having to be wound by turning the crown (the little knob that is also used to set the time) of the watch. That was a big advance in technology back then.

I have had many watches since that one. I cannot imagine not wearing a watch, although none of my children wear them any more. If they want to know what time it is, they look at their phones.

Time

Outside temperature

In my bedroom we have a clock that projects the time on the ceiling, which is useful when one wakes up during the night and is not sure whether it’s time to get up or to go back to sleep. It also projects the outside temperature, and alternates between them every four seconds. Whenever I look at the ceiling, it always seems to show the temperature, and I have to wait until the time comes up.

Of course, in addition to thinking about the time of day, there is also time in the larger sense, measuring the span of years.

I was always surprised when my mother couldn’t remember what year a certain event had happened. While I was in school, it was always so clear to me – that happened when I was in fifth grade, or the summer between ninth and tenth, or junior year in college. But once I was finished with school, I began to see how hard it was to place events in time. When my children were young, I could sometimes place events by where they were in school when it happened. But now there is nothing to anchor time. So often I have said “that was a couple of years ago,” and someone will correct me and say “no, it was actually more like ten years ago” or even “twenty years ago,” which is alarming when it just feels like yesterday.

I’m now on the committee planning my 50th college reunion. It seems impossible to me that those turbulent years, which I remember so vividly, could have been fifty years ago. I won’t say that those memories feel like yesterday, but FIFTY YEARS AGO? That is mind-blowing.

During the pandemic, time has become much more nebulous. It was exactly two years ago this week that we felt the full impact of Covid-19. Everything in my world shut down between March 10 and March 13, 2020, as described in Don’t Get Around Much Any More. For the first year, when I was sheltering in place or quarantining or social distancing, i.e. not seeing anyone, time seemed to drag on endlessly, because nothing was happening and we were just waiting for the pandemic to be OVER! The second year was filled with activities, mostly online or occasionally outdoors, and time moved a little faster. Still, after two years of this, I’m never sure what day or month it is until I check the newspaper or my computer. Frequently I even get the year wrong. Is this Covid brain, or just getting old? Maybe, contrary to what Mick made us believe back in 1964, time isn’t really on our side.

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Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, I relate to so much of what you describe. My first watch wasn’t from Switzerland, but I still have it, and have always worn a watch (I know it is a “thing” for many of the younger generation to not wear watches, but then they have to pull their phones out of their pockets to know the time! Many others do wear Apple Watches, but they are too large for my tiny wrist).

    I am intrigued by the reflecting image on the ceiling of your bedroom, alternating between time and temperature. Our old thermostat showed time (and had to be reset during the Daylight Savings Time switch – it will throw us off a bit too). We replaced those old ones last year. The new ones are WiFi-enabled (so we can change them remotely) and show outside temperature, but no longer show time, so I don’t have to run around resetting during the Spring Ahead, Fall Behind switch, which is a bit of a relief.

    The pandemic messed with most people’s sense of time, I believe. Not many appointments and they were always over Zoom or FaceTime, no real schedule, very difficult to stay oriented if you were retired with no real reason to get much done. Hopefully, that will abate as we get out more.

    Like you (not surprising), I kept track of EVERYTHING for years, but have lost that sense of when things happened, or exactly how long ago. I think it is part of the aging process. The milestones don’t come as often and (tough for me to say), our brains aren’t quite as sharp (I know mine isn’t). I am two years behind you, but I agree…50 years, when did that happen? I am already cajoling reluctant classmates who have never been to a reunion to PLEASE not miss the big one. Harvard always does a great job; Brandeis not so much, but I’m hoping that my apathetic class will realize this one is important. Within the last three weeks, I’ve gotten word that five of my high school classmates just died. I knew them all.

    Yes, 50 is a big number, worth celebrating and rejoicing.

    • Suzy says:

      Betsy, what a lovely, long, thoughtful comment! We are still the Retrospect Twins, having so much in common in our past and in our present. So glad that when my reunion brings me to Massachusetts I will get to see you too!

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    I was already humming “so tired of waiting” before that came up in your sentence…I live that! Also totally agree with the need for time anchors. The longer I stay in one place, the muddier it gets. Everything has devolved into “the other day”.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    I was unable to come up with a single idea for the current prompt…until I read this story. Thanks! Gotta go write it up….

  4. Marian says:

    Agree with just about everything in your time synopsis, Suzy. I always wore a watch until a few weeks ago, when mine died, and since I always carry my phone, I’m trying to go without … Like you, I prefer to be on time, not too early, and certainly not late. Always need to check dates for what happened in my family with my brother, before I write Retro stories!

    • Suzy says:

      I’ll be interested to hear whether relying on your phone for the time works for you or not. When I have tried to do that, I look at my phone and discover there is an email, text, or some other distraction, and then when I put my phone away I realize I still don’t know what time it is!

  5. Perfect Suzy, I too can relate! I think it’s aging rather than just Covid because, for me at least, the time-unawareness pre-dated the pandemic!
    In my early, pre-tech school library years, I stamped the kids’ books out by hand. The loan period was two weeks, hence I was always aware of the “due date” and often thought THAT was the current date!

    • Suzy says:

      I can imagine that happening to me too, Dana, stamping in a date in the future and then thinking it is the current date! Good thing we can now look at our phones or computers for the date as well as the time.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I can totally relate to this, Suzy. Between our stage of life (retired) and the pandemic, time and date have lost their place in our lives. I like how you described us as being without anchors these days.

  7. Your overhead time and temperature projection is pretty wild. As I age and occasionally wake up disoriented in the darkness, I think it would be helpful to expand the overhead messaging to include date, address, and reassurances.
    The sightline to my bedside clock has been bad for decades. One of these years I may move things around.

  8. Yeah, Suzy, it seems that watches have become a generational characteristic. I still wear one and keep it running smoothly, despite the digital surroundings of my new reality.

    I also liked your description of The Great Accordion of time, expanding and contracting around the actual number of years that have gone by. One of my great calibrating instruments for long periods of time are the speeds and modes of infants becoming kids and then being in some university or another. Yikes! Give me tempo any time.

    BTW: Time is on My Side is a waltz. What does that say about rock and roll? One, two three, one two three…

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, it is alarming to see these babies who go off to college before we turn around. (Do you remember the Malvina Reynolds song “Turn Around”? It was recorded by Harry Belafonte, among others.)

      You’re right about the waltz tempo of Time is on my Side – Mick, what were you thinking?

  9. Jim Willis says:

    Suzy, I like the energy of your writing and your stories, and this one is no exception. As for the time changes, I have problems with them, too. In fact, I woke up late on Sunday even though Saturday night I knew the time change was coming. As for your red digital time projection on the ceiling, it would work for me but it would keep my wife awake. She’s a light sleeper, even though she falls asleep with her earbuds on while listening to an audio book. I, on the other hand, have been known to sleep through a tornado.

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