how-long-clocktreeWe’ve all heard little kids plead “Are we almost there yet?” from the back seat of the car in an apparent attempt to speed the journey along.  This may also reflect humans’ inner need to hang on to a reliable and satisfying sense of time.  We know that all we have is time and that time is money.  Based on my recent readings of Stephen King short stories, time is indeed a slippery creature, seldom moving at a speed we most desire; and liking, it seems, to sneak past us.  In the rain, at night, in the creepy pre-dawn fog, and especially when we’re having fun.


In that spirit, I’ve been trying to pin down some time markers, knowing full well that what the clock indicates may bear only faint resemblance to what our minds and hearts have to say about it.  Here is my initial attempt to crack the “real time” code.  It’s a scale of how long some things seem to take, from shortest to longest:


Minus 1 hour: the time it takes for a slick Hollywood producer to launch a sequel to a hit movie.


1 microsecond: the time it takes for a driver behind you in New York City to hit his horn after the light turns green.


2 microseconds: the time between a microwave oven signaling that your popcorn is done and the first reminder beep.


5 seconds: the time it takes to choose an entrée in your favorite restaurant (since there’s no real need to study the menu).


7.5 seconds: the average time it takes a server to refill your iced tea at a Lowcountry restaurant, 9 seconds if they’re busy.


10 seconds: how long it takes a serious beer drinker to finish his or her first draft on a hot day (15 seconds per can or bottle on the sandbar).


30 seconds: the time it takes to land the best fish you ever hooked on a beautiful day in May when the seas look like glass and you can barely feel your feet on the deck.


45 seconds: the time elapsed between when you leave your air conditioned house and when your shirt is soaked through on a hot summer day.


25 minutes: the time required to endure all the commercials in your favorite half hour TV show, 16 minutes if you recognize one of your friends or relatives.


70 minutes: the average time you’re on hold listening to “your call is important to us, please stay on the line for the next available…” before someone tries to answer your call in decent English.


2.5 hours: the time it takes to bring in the last relief pitcher, R. Van Winkle, in the 13th inning, whereas you are back from the bathroom in 2 minutes.


2 days: the time it takes for a pot of water to boil if you stay in the kitchen by yourself (2 weeks if you watch the pot).


1 week: how long your summer vacation lasts when you’re in grade school.


3 months (and shrinking fast): the elapsed time between your own birthdays when you’re over 55.


8 months: rocket man edition, the time it takes for your best puppy ever on Earth to reach age 15.


3 years: the time required to complete your first biopsy (assuming no anesthesia, vs. 3 seconds with appropriate sedation).


6 years: the time between your 15th and 16th birthdays.


Forever minus 1 year: the time required to really figure everything out, including what the loftiest philosophers (starting with Plato) actually meant, the classic sociologists (Max Weber, anyone?) actually said, and how long it will take the Chicago Cubs to win another World Series or calculate how many hot dogs and individual potato chips were sold in South America last year.


I’d love to assemble a team to design a beautiful brass gizmo that incorporates these units of time and maybe a few others (does $29.95 plus shipping and handling sound reasonable?).  Just so long as we don’t reinvent the cuckoo clock or tinker with the flux capacitor.


Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.


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