If you don’t appreciate the spirit of this story, it’s high time you rethink your priorities. Because baby boomer Marsh Rose of Cloverdale, California, has written about time. And how much she used to depend on knowing what time it was. And how much happier she is without watching a watch.
I took off my wristwatch a few months ago. The last time I saw its little face it said 3:16.
I thought everybody wore a watch until I noticed that my friend Diane didn’t have one. Diane said she gets along just fine without knowing which minute it is. I said I’d never live through an hour if I didn’t know the time.
And then I heard myself and felt … uneasy. Maybe I’ve become just another lapsed flower child. You know, we Baby Boomers who were idealistic until our idealism eroded. Then we got conservative jobs and expensive toys and we speeded up. Now we’re snickering at photos of Woodstock and running our lives in 15-minute increments from Day Runners and Smartphones and wristwatches, some with internet access.
Suddenly I could see my own trend. I haven’t carried a sign or volunteered at the homeless shelter in years. I don’t know my Congressman’s address and I’ve apparently married my wristwatch. So I’ve taken some old-fashioned protest action and slipped off that watch. Its absence left an anemic-looking stripe around my wrist.
I must have yanked up my sleeve and looked at my naked wrist twenty times that first day of watchlessness. I’d probably performed that mindless act for years. There were five clocks around my house and one in my car but I felt insecure.
A week later a friend accused me of being like a non-smoker who keeps borrowing one last cigarette. “Why don’t you get your own watch so you won’t keep grabbing our wrists like this?” But eventually I could enter a room without looking like a hunted animal until I found a clock. The need to know the time lost its urgency. I did show up a half-hour early for a meeting and then, to fill the gap, lost all sense of time, browsing in a used bookstore. I got to the meeting 20 minutes late. But I found an out-of-print novel I’d been looking for.
After that, I noticed myself slowing down. My concentration broadened without constant interruptions to check the time, and I became absorbed in reading and thinking. Now and then I’d startle back to reality and wonder if I was late, but I seldom was. When it mattered, I could find out the time. When it didn’t matter, I didn’t care. I realized I had never looked at my watch when I was elated or comfortable, and counting the seconds won’t get the plane off the runway faster or adjourn a deadly meeting.
As of this minute, whatever it is, time itself seems less important. I no longer glance at my bare wrist. I still know where the clocks are but I can pass one without looking at it. I’m regaining a tiny sense of being part of a bigger, slower picture. It feels nostalgic.