Internal clocks

(This post was inspired by my friend Murphala at FlourWaterYeast&Salt.)

When I was growing up, we kept all the clocks in the house set 15 minutes fast, because that’s about how much we always ran late. It actually worked pretty well. It takes my rational brain a few minutes to shift gears and say, “Whoa there, the clock is fast, remember?” In the meantime, my reactional brain has seen the time, yelped “Holy pancakes!” and sent a jolt of adrenaline through my system. By the time the rational brain kicks in, I’m already in gear and halfway out the door.

My S.O. is the sort of person who could have coined the expression, “To be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late.” Living together all these years, I’ve come to appreciate that running a few minutes early means I don’t have to feel rushed, and he’s come to appreciate that the world really doesn’t end if he’s not fifteen minutes early to everything.

Unfortunately for the harmonious balance we have managed to strike, we have children.

One is reasonably well-organized and quite capable of punctuality. He frequently fails to live up to his potential in that area, however, largely because he is a teenager. He loves the thrill of pulling things off without a moment to spare, timing everything down to the last second so he can crow in triumph at the killjoy parents who have been anxiously clucking and fluttering him out the door. At least half the time, though, he leaves something out of his meticulous calculations, and, as his plan includes no margin for error, the whole scheme crashes and burns, accompanied by parental hair-pulling and scolding.

The other child has always been temporally challenged, a condition that has only intensified as she’s moved into her pre-teen years. She can stretch the briefest of tasks into an agonizing effort of Sysiphean proportions. When asked if she’s ready to leave, she’ll answer yes, only to begin rushing around at the moment of departure doing 37 things that have to be done so she can go. I can only guess that she understands “ready to leave” to actually mean “ready to think about getting ready to leave.”

The one good thing about this situation is that it has driven my S.O. and I to greater solidarity in the departure department. Of course, we’re also more unified in terms of elevated blood pressure. Assuming we both survive until the offspring are on their own, I’m pretty sure we’ll never again fuss at each other over being on time.


4 responses to “Internal clocks

  1. HA! As an unabashed sitcom junkie, let me recall some classics: Everybody Loves Raymond: Lateness.
    Friends: The one where no one’s ready

    I can most especially relate to the Friends episode. I feel like everyone ignores my time schedule and my reasonable requests for an early departure time. People I know have one speed. Slow. Kudos to you on graceful management of time among so many people with different views on the subject. 🙂 By the way, do all your clocks show the same time?

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      I’m about to out myself as a pop-culture dunce: I think the last sitcom I watched was Cheers. I’ve seen trailers for ELR and Friends in syndication, but I’ve never watched either show.

      I don’t think “graceful” is the right word for the way we manage time around here. There tends to be a fair amount of nagging and threatening by adults and a good deal of stomping and yelling by children. I think “uneven” would be a better description.

      Thanks to the fact that most of the clocks in the house are tuned in to the atomic clock in Colorado, all the clocks in the house pretty much tell the same, official time. The microwave and my grandparents’ antique wall pendulum clock are the exceptions, and we pretty much try to keep them in line with the others.

      My car, however, is my own domain, and the clock there is five minutes fast. 🙂

  2. I used to set my alarm clock, the one I looked at when I woke each morning, five minutes fast. It’s interesting how I would never remember that in the groggy morning moments. It helped me to push myself into gear five minutes sooner than I otherwise would have.

    I don’t like arriving early, although I agree with your S.O. On that issue. With the actual start time as my target, I often stepped in a few minutes late. One pastor had the opinion that people that arrived a little late wished to call attention to themselves. I think he was wrong much of the time. People that are uncomfortable socializing try to arrive right on time. When they arrive late, their plan has backfired in the worst possible way, as they have made a spectacle of themselves. Alas!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Sometimes I think there must be two kinds of people in the world: those who set their clocks ahead a little to help them be on time, and those who say, “How can that possibly work? I would always know I had an extra five minutes.” (I like to think those of us who fall into the former category have more active imaginations. My S.O. snorts and says we’re just more gullible.)

      People who come in conspicuously late and insist on sitting near the front rather than slipping quietly into the back probably ARE angling for attention, even if only unconsciously. I think the pastor was a little off in attributing this desire to everyone who arrived late, especially those who try to enter as unobtrusively as possible.

      It’s lovely to hear from you, Carol Ann. You and Johannes are daily in my prayers, and seldom far from my thoughts. 🙂

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