Time

As I wake up this morning with the harsh beeps of the phone alarm, I notice that time has changed. Even though the clockface says 6 am, it’s not. 6 am morning last week is 6 am night today here in New York.

The river is inky black outside, the lights are still twinkling on the bank, the boats that are criss-crossing the river are sparkling on the dark water like jewels.

The morning ferry is one of the boats that is crossing the river, distinct by its two rows of jewel-like lights that I’ve come to know like a diamond-studded brooch on black silk.

The ferry doesn’t start until morning. So is it morning already?

Just last week, at this time, the sky was awash with light. The river was a sparkling blue, the light was golden, the boats were white and yellow and the sky had pillow-white clouds.

Now wasn’t the fading darkness of dawn. Now was morning in full force. The weather was just like Summer even though the calendar said it was Fall.

This darkness isn’t morning for me yet, no, I think as I take the train, get off the bus and see the light-sensitive night lights still on in the grayness outside.

It isn’t time yet. This is no time to start the day. How did time pass so soon? How did warm Summer fade into cold Fall?

As I check my Facebook on my phone as I’m getting off the bus here in Jersey City as it is just starting to get lighter, it’s mid-day already.

Two friends have checked in for lunch at a restaurant in London. The lunch special seems to be curried salmon at this tiny eatery near Russell Square (written in chalk on a blackboard behind them). The digital picture catches the mid-day sun streaming in through the door. They’re meeting after a long time. “It’s just as if no time has passed at all,” they write. “We’ve taken up where we left off as if it was all yesterday.”

It’s going to be a very long Wednesday, I think, as I get off my bus this morning. As I’m stepping out, a comment shows up on the screen from a friend in Singapore.

“Don’t know where the day went and I’m still in office. So much still left to be done. Can I borrow a day from someone?” she says.

“You can,” I comment. “Take mine. Mine has just started.”

Seth Godin’s blog post yesterday, Time doesn’t exist until we invent it  (Oct 15), said it so much better than I:

The transcontinental railroads led to the invention of time zones. For the first time, everyone needed to be in sync, regardless of what village one lived in.

A few generations later, we’re in all in sync, to the second, thanks to the computers in our pockets.

Time is borrowed, wasted, spent. We find the time, slow down time, take our time. Its Miller, quitting, clobberin time. We focus on the stitch in time, hard time, closing time, not to mention big, daylight savings, race against, first, last, due, nick of…

Time is so variable, so based on our experience, that the absolute measure of time is almost meaningless. Don’t even get me started about relativity and time travel.

Time on a long bus trip goes so much slower than time spent doing what we love with people we care about. We’ll pay $1000 to buy an hour in some circumstances, but refuse to pay a $5 premium to save an hour in others.

Time doesn’t exist, not in a way that matters to most people. The story we tell ourselves about time, though, is the overriding narrative of our day to day lives.

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10 thoughts on “Time”

  1. With darkness closing in I needed this. Coming to it late, but then, what is time?;) Perhaps it’s not surprising that I too have just written a story about time, and our perennial need to adjust our perception of it. I’ve been thinking this morning about daylight savings time, but it was interesting to read in your excerpt from Seth Godin’s post about how recent the concept of times zones is—must look further into that one. Thank you.

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  2. Yesterday afternoon as bushfires ravaged and roared their way through the outskirts of Sydney, people in New York were snuggling down, heads moulded to soft pillows … this morning as my nostrils are filled with the acrid smouldering smell of black smoke, still hovering over the city, people in New York are sipping cocktails on rooftop bars … what time is it?

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  3. It’s like time is the cover of a book, or the pages that the words are written on — the stories, the messages, are contained within but still seep through the fabric of that space.

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