Once in a while something so wonderful happens that we wish we could freeze time. But usually when your clock stops it just means the battery is dead.
Our red cow wall clock came to a standstill this month and I replaced the battery, but the next day it still didn’t have the correct time. Still, because it had advanced by several hours I decided to give it another chance. Maybe it had a sticky place that had loosened up. Everybody has a bad day. Maybe it had a sore second-hand joint and now was feeling better.
I reset the clock and it seemed to be working fine and continued to have the correct time for several days, until last Sunday, when I was waiting for the big game to begin. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper when my son phoned. “Can you believe the dunk that LeBron just made?”
“What, the game started already?” I ran over to turn on the TV and see if I could catch the replay. I realized that the clock had glitched again and was now running about 20 minutes slow.
The next night Sue was sitting at the table, killing some time before going to a meeting. When it started getting dark outside, she became suspicious and checked the time on her phone. “Crap, this clock is wrong. Now I’m going to be late for my meeting!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you, the red cow is running a little slow again,” I said as she rushed out the door.
When she returned home she immediately took the clock off the wall and started to throw in the trash. “Wait, it seemed to be getting better. It was working fine all week. Don’t you think it deserves another chance?”
“No, a clock that doesn’t keep the right time is completely useless. I’m ordering a new one tomorrow.”
I guess I have a difficult time giving up on anybody, or anything, even inanimate objects. And a clock isn’t inanimate, it moves forward every second of the day. It is ever-changing, constantly in the present, always aware of the moment. A wall clock has an almost Zen-like presence, doing its job of keeping us from dwelling on the past or losing our thoughts to the untouchable dreams of the future. A clock always lives in the now, or at least a clock that keeps the right time does.
The red cow clock had done such a good job of holding the moment for so long, I had come to rely on and respect its gentle ticking. Better yet, it mooed on the hour. Even throughout the many power outages we experience in my neighborhood, the battery-powered clock always kept me aware of the now. To simply throw time in the trash seemed a desecration of the holy, for me. Besides I’m cheap. I believe that if something is broken you try to fix it before you consider the exorbitant possibility of replacing it. Then you look for something used (and also cheap). I often experience an almost physical pain when I am forced to fork out the cash to buy a brand-new replacement for something that’s worked well for years.
My brother Dennis on the other hand had a different relationship to time. He loved watches. He loved looking at them, trying them on, and buying them. Unfortunately, once you buy a watch, you no longer need another one. He solved this problem by giving his watch away every chance he got. He would be wearing a new watch and showing it off to a friend, and if they said something like, “Where’d you get it, I’d like a watch like that,” he’d take it off his wrist and give it to them. This would allow him the chance to try on all the watches at another store and buy a new one. His habit used to drive my parents crazy. “How can you buy a new watch when you don’t even have money for gasoline?” they’d want to know. But my brother was addicted to giving the gift of time.
Sadly, he’s no longer around, or else I’m sure I’d be able to convince him to buy me a new clock. Instead, when my wife went upstairs I rummaged through the garbage and found the old red cow. I hid it down in my workshop, where I’m planning a major surgery to see if I can fix its ticker, or maybe install a new pacemaker. They say time stands still for no man. Now I’ll see if I can convince my clock of that.