Off The Clock

(Author’s note: backlogged from maybe 2 weeks ago)

I’m kind of a spaz when it comes to time. I’m the only punctual person in a world stuck 15 minutes behind me and the clocks that we supposedly agree to. While I’m optimizing my actions to avoid unnecessary waiting and gaps, everyone else is carelessly meandering through life and causing me to wait for them. Whenever I’m late, it clearly was a freak accident caused by the highly unlikely alignment of Venus, the Andromeda galaxy, and a bench in London with ramifications across the universe. When others are late, they just didn’t think through things

Well, that’s how I feel while I’m waiting. The truth is that I, like most others, cannot predict the future and get caught in unexpected situations like anyone else. Although I believe that I am more punctual than others, that belief doesn’t help me much and likely just causes me to get frustrated. Since I am stubborn and can’t shake this belief, I instead have tried to free myself rom the clock and haven’t worn my watch for the past 2 or 3 weeks. Overall? NOT BAD.

I started wearing my watch regularly during 7th grade, and over that decade or so, I have constantly been aware of the time. During grade school, my watch was synchronized exactly with the school bells, so I could pack up at just the right time before classes ended. I could react instantly and bolt from my desk into the hallway and speedwalk through the hallways to my next class before the rest of my time-ignorant peers had even zipped up their backpacks. My watch was handy during college as well as I biked between classes and made it to meetings at odd hours. With activities back to back, it was helpful to know precisely when to leave to make it in time for whatever was up next.

Over the past few months, however, I haven’t needed my watch nearly as much. I always took my watch off when I was at my computer because the band was uncomfortable while typing. Since my job is mostly spent at my desk at my computer, and scheduled events are rare, I generally don’t need to know the time except when to leave for the day. So far, I have only picked up my watch to keep the time on my laundry.

The first benefits were expected. When I planned to meet up with friends, I didn’t agonize about leaving to arrive precisely on time. This saved me the 3 or 4 minutes of awkwardly, constantly checking my watch and instead freed me to move along more leisurely. When I got to the designated rendezvous, I wasn’t aware of how early or late everyone else was. A few minutes of anxiety saved here and there led to a more leisurely pace.

The next benefits were natural. In a very zen-like manner, I allowed my body to dictate my day instead of the clock. On the weekends, I didn’t look to my alarm clock or watch for the time: I got up if I was feeling rested and laid around if I wasn’t. Weekend meals became more fluid as well. Brunch was no longer something I needed to roll out for because I had already missed the appropriate time for breakfast. Afternoon snacks got squeezed in at 4 because I was hungry, and dinner was pushed back because I had just eaten. It was kind of nice.

The biggest benefits were exactly what I would hoped they would be. Without the rigid march of the clock and its tangible embodiment strapped to my body, serendipity came back, and that was fun. Julie and I were headed up to the city to meet up with my Uncle Ben’s family, hopefully to see Fisherman’s Wharf with them that afternoon and then head onto dinner. Julie and I had a slow morning and left for the next train when we could instead of rushing to make the first one we could. After that, we grabbed lunch at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, which impressed as usual. Although we could have taken the MUNI up to Fisherman’s Wharf, we decided to walk through downtown San Francisco instead, looking at various POPOS and stumbling across a Daiso Japan dollar-fifty shop and an independent bookstore. In Chinatown, we got distracted by a line outside of “Dim Sum; Nice Food”* and had a tasty snack, then made my obligatory trip to the Hong Kong-style bakery 2 doors down. By that time, my uncle and I had called back and forth a few times, and they had finished at Fisherman’s Wharf and would come pick us up for dinner.

Did I miss our planned meetup? Absolutely. By ignoring the clock, I completely skipped meeting up with my uncle, semi-consciously. But in the car ride, we both had stories about the great days we had had. If it were watch-banded-Kevin who I needed to meet up with, he would have likely been very annoyed with my inconsiderate behavior and had an awful time being bummed about it.

My watch kept me focused on the time itself instead of the experiences it was intended to create through coordination. Our society and lives still run on the clock, but I can hope that maybe I was right about being the one punctual person in the world: there’s no one left to be annoyed or to disappoint when I am now late, because so is everyone else.

* in truth, not so serendipitous; it was on my radar as one of the dim sum places I needed to try

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