It’s not just your imagination: time really does move faster as we get older. Research shows that, from middle age onwards, we steadily fall behind the clock. For a senior citizen, half an hour feels like forty minutes, so actual clock time seems to be moving faster and faster.
This sense of vanishing time is made all the sharper by the end of Daylight Saving Time. A whole hour evaporates in a flash, although it seems like only the day before yesterday that you set the clocks forward for summer.
Daylight Saving Time also reminds me just how many clocks we have: one in each car, one in the living room, two in the bedroom, one in each bathroom, two in the kitchen, and no fewer than four in my office. Then there are traveling clocks, clocks in the computers, the radios, the fax machine, the DVD, in the microwave and even a speaking clock with a nasty robotic voice in the answering machine.
But the twice-a-year re-setting of the clocks is a great waste of time in itself, especially since clocks and watches have become so complicated. It used to be so easy. Wristwatches could be changed by pulling out the winder button and twirling the hands into position. On larger clocks, it was a simple matter of opening the case and pushing the hands around with your finger until they pointed to the right numbers. But now, re-setting the time requires a degree from MIT, as well as an uncommon amount of physical dexterity.
You may easily guess that I suffer from an obsession with time and timepieces. This is a hereditary disease. My father ‘s hobby was repairing watches and clocks. The family home was always full of other people’s clocks, all ticking away at slightly different rhythms and showing slightly different times. My father would disembowel them on the kitchen table, picking his way confidently through hundreds of tiny wheels and springs, in a passionate but always-doomed search for perfect accuracy.
So when all my clocks are correctly re-set to Daylight Savings Time, as they are now I hope, I feel a certain deeply biological sense of satisfaction. It’s all self -deception, of course. We can’t save daylight, any more than we can save time. Barring some massive disruption in the solar system, there will be exactly as much daylight as there ever was, and time will keep ticking along at a steadily accelerating rate.
Our crazy obsession with time is all the fault of a mad Dutch mathematician, Christian Huygens, who invented the pendulum clock back in the 1600s. Once time could be accurately measured, everybody wanted to know exactly what time it was all the time. Public clocks were set up in every city, and soon pocket watches and wristwatches allowed us to carry time around, so we would know when to commence the cocktail hour, eat, sleep, wake up, and complain about other people not being on time.
This time addiction is a serious disease, and invariably fatal in the end. In spite of all my efforts to set them right, the living room clock is always a minute fast, while the clock in the car is three minutes fast, and all of them going faster and faster.