A Clock Free Life

Talking to Amanda reminded me of the time Felix threw his wristwatch into the roses and declared himself clock free. The experiment was supposed to go on for a week but in fact it has become more or less a permanent state. For a while Felix's life was completely out of kilter with the rest of us. He was getting up and having breakfast at ten pm and going to bed at three o'clock in the afternoon. It took a week or so for his daily rhythm to settle down to something more or less like normal. Just as well. We were missing his cooking.

Felix, of course, can afford to live a clock free life. He doesn't have to worry about money since he once won over a million dollars in a lottery. What about the rest of us, though?

I was talking to Janice about this recently.

'It would never work for me,' she said. 'My boss would go bananas if I was late for work and I have problems enough with appointments as it is.'

'Yes. We need to fit in with other people. Society's got so complicated it has to be coordinated. But what about the rest of the time? The evenings or weekends?'

'Ooh, I don't know.' She looked doubtful.

'I mean, ask yourself. Do you eat lunch because you're hungry or because it's a certain time of day? Would you need to look at the clock when you got up on a Saturday or Sunday morning? Could you just go to bed without knowing what the time was?'

Janice laughed. It was a particular kind of laugh. I pretended not to understand it.

'Being clock free might be quite interesting,' I said.

'I don't know,' she said. 'Routines are good. They stop you having to think.'

'But we should consider what we do, shouldn't we?'

Janice shrugged.

'I think I'll give it a go,' I decided.

'Good on you,' Janice said, in that tone that showed she would never consider following my example.

'Only don't tell Amanda.'

'You're secret is safe with me,' she said.

That was four days ago. I locked my watch away and began trying to do things when and if I wanted to. The results have been mixed.

Janice was right. I did spend a lot of time stopping myself glancing at clocks, which meant that time figured much higher on my list of concerns than it had previously.

In addition, I became aware that other people were cueing me in to certain activities like lunch or dinner. If I was relying on their timing could I truly call myself clock free?

One quite interesting change, though, was that I have stopped watching the six o'clock news on television. For the first evening I hung around in the TV room waiting for Amanda to arrive and turn it on. She was a few minutes late and gave me a peculiar look when she found it wasn't already going, a look that was sharp enough to make me feel awkward. The next night I kept away.

Of course, I missed the news altogether because I didn't know when it was on. I also found that the rest of my evening had suddenly lost its structure. It stretched ahead of me with all the terror of an opportunity. In the end, I spent it reading and listening to Mozart. I felt at peace even though I was ignorant of the latest in world events and didn't know what the next day's weather was supposed to be.

Since then I have had pleasanter and more fulfilling evenings. I am still preoccupied with time but my negative fascination with clocks is diminishing. I should say, too, that I haven't missed an appointment yet.

I'll keep you posted.

28 october 2008


© Chris Else 2008