Recently, I retired. (Mostly) My firm presented me with a very nice mantle clock with chimes, the kind that will ring at every quarter hour, plus ring out a number of bells marking each hour, on the hour. This is a pretty standard thing for retirement I gather. I am sure others have made the observation that it is perverse to get a clock or watch at a point in life when you no longer have any appointments to keep. It sounds like something Mark Twain might have quipped, but I won’t be researching it. So much for run of the mill commentary.
Precisely every 15 minutes, I get a reminder that yet another short slug of my remaining time on Earth has passed. Once gone they never will come back. So depressing! Why do I voluntarily wind this thing up once a week?
Because there is a lesson in there. I can sit right by that clock all day, writing or reading or whatever, and I will only actually hear those chimes every so often. At first I was worried that the thing was broken, a period would go by, like an hour and a quarter, and I simply could not recall having heard anything. Then I would hear them again. I figured they must have stopped working and then started again. But that wasn't the case, it wasn’t broken. The chimes just didn’t register. Why? Because I was engrossed in something.
So I started to measure my days this way. Not in 15 minute increments when I heard them, but by the periods when I didn’t. A good day was one where I might go for hours, not more than a few feet away from the clock, and not hear them at all. A bad or boring day, getting little of interest done, would mean I was aware of them over and over again. If I heard them too much, I got up and did something else.
So, travel? It’s the same thing really. A good day of travel is one where you don’t look at your watch or even care about the time too much. A bad day is one where you do. For this reason, I have started to not wear a watch when traveling at all. I went on a 5 week cross country trip last winter and never wore one the whole time. As I write this I am on a month long trip into the Canadian north and am not wearing one. (As I post this dispatch I am on a short trip to Chicago, still no watch.)
But how? Aren’t there schedules to meet, buses, trains, ferries and planes to catch? Aren't you always having to be somewhere at some precise point? The answer is, increasingly no. The more I learn to slow down in my travels, the less I need to know the time. And when I do need to know, my iPhone and Siri will tell me what I need to know and when.
At home I keep that damned mantle clock wound up and chiming because it gets me up and out if I start to hear it. When traveling it is the opposite, I’m already up and out and I don’t want to be told that time’s-a-wasting, to do something else.
I am not suggesting to miss appointments or blow an itinerary. I am saying to try and plan a trip where your itinerary actually minimizes even having those stresses. Try not to plan a vacation that resembles a forced march, we have enough of that in our lives already.
So leave it home, or in your bag maybe, and enjoy the day.
Thank you old firm for the mantle clock. Not because I needed to keep the time as I sit in my house. But because it is teaching me to not keep the time at all.
©️ 2019 D Abbott