The Tyranny of Time

big clock

more time, more time, more time

Twice a year, I get the idea that I might have too many clocks. Today is one of those days as I participate in the national pastime of trying to figure out why we need Daylight Savings Time.

If it’s true I have too many clocks, it would be an odd situation considering I’m a person who hates the tyranny of clocks and punctuality.

At about the age of 30, I started the high ceremony of The Removal of the Watch. This ritual took place every Friday upon my arrival home from work. Until Sunday at approximately 6 p.m., I paid no attention to time – I slept when tired, ate when hungry, and only checked the time to verify that any place I was planning to go to was open.

It’s a nice way to live. I’d like to do that full-time.

A few years ago, I found myself in the horrible position of having to schedule my life in 15 minute intervals. In any one workday, I would have 6 or 7 different places scattered about town that I needed to be at precise times. That situation brought on the wristwatch collection.


Every last one of them need a new battery.

I’m a firm believer in the right accessories for the clothing ensemble. Nothing corked me more than looking at a watch umpteen hundred times a day only to have that watch look stupid with the day’s outfit. I soon discovered $5 or $10 would buy me snazzy watches, silly watches, elegant watches and funky watches. Like the now defunct reading glass collection, the number of wristwatches approached infinity. Since I bought them all at the same time, the batteries all die at about the same time. Getting new batteries put in the watches once a year almost requires a second mortgage.

While I still schedule my life in 15 minute intervals, I spend most of my time in three places – all adequately equipped with a clock for easy viewing. In the past couple of years, the clock on the cell phone has replaced the wristwatch. All those wristwatches are languishing unappreciated in the dresser drawer. (I might have to do something about that.)

treasure chest of time

Time as treasure.

In the search for wristwatches, I discovered tiny little desk clocks. Uncharacteristically I exhibited some restraint and I only have two of those. They’re devilishly hard to set. There are some days I’d like more. Today is not one of those days.

My kitchen appliances are all, except for the refrigerator, equipped with a clock. The most important of these is the coffee pot clock. Without that clock, I can’t set the timer, and without the timer, I can’t have coffee ready when I wake in the morning. It would destroy what little peace I have in the morning if I had to begin the day trying to get the damn thing to brew me a cup of coffee. (When did coffee pots get so complicated?) Of course, they’re all digital.


Coffee Pot

Then there’s the DVD player, the alarm clocks and the car clock – also the dreaded digital type. The good thing is I now have a car that provides an easy way of changing the clock. Thirty years of digital timepieces and we’re just now figuring out how to make them easier.

There are two clocks, beside the cell phone, I rely on most. One is the spiffy radio-controlled-set-itself-to-the-Master-Clock-of-the-Universe thing that also tells me the temperature inside and out, the humidity level, and whether or not it’s going to rain. I love this stupid thing – I just wish it wasn’t so ugly.

hightech lowtech

hi-tech, low-tech, digital, analog

The other is my giant wall clock covered in faux leather with great big Roman numerals. This is the clock I glance it when I’m trying to figure out how late I’m going to be as I run around the house looking for my glasses.

Twice a year, I have to set all these clocks as I twirl about the solar system in either Daylight Savings Time or, um, hmmm, Normal Time.. Invariably, I forget one or two which leads to a month or two when I’m confused. I’m either late or early or discombobulated trying to figure out which one is right.

As I roam through the house, pushing multiple buttons (and cursing), I get lazier and lazier about setting each to the precise time. Since many of them are cheap and/or battery operated even set at the precise time, they’ll begin separating from the pack in a few weeks and every one of them will tell a different story as to what time it is. This is why the one that talks to the Master Clock of the Universe is such a favorite.

vanity vanity all is vanity

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

My alarm clock was cleverly designed to set itself twice a year when we adjusted to or from Daylight Savings Time. But then they changed the dates that happens and so a couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of a day puzzling how it was that I kept losing an hour when I went upstairs. So I just had to fight with that thing to get it back to the right time and now I’m fighting with it again. Trust me. My life requires an alarm clock that not only tells the right time but rings really loud.

phone clock

Talkin' time.

And now, between setting clocks (and running out to buy batteries for clocks), I’m late and have to call work to try and explain why a multitude of clocks caused the situation. I leave out the part wherein I spent two hours I didn’t have writing this blog post. Sometimes you do things because you have to, sometimes because you want to – kind of like how I have a plethora of timepieces when I find time to be tyranny and punctuality as something only the truly gifted can accomplish without precise planning and great haste.  I wish they’d just leave time alone.  It’s problematic enough without changing it twice a year.

[And dammit, I just had to go in and change the time in my blog settings so that maybe the next post will show the corrected published-at time.  Jeez Louise.]

The guys out back are rocking out.

My office is near some subsidized apartments which cater to folks who have been homeless. They’re an interesting crop of folks (most of them would die before they would allow anyone to hurt me).

Every once in a while, like today, they have an impromptu party. Warm weather is frequently the catalyst. Today’s selections are Bob Seger and Mad Dog.



Used under a creative commons license. Pareerica's

I did a search on Flickr using the term imagine – I was delighted to find the very kind of image I set out to find on the very first screen of results. It’s a good day to be me.

I wanted an image that was a little edgy – one’s imagination can be a fearful place as well as a hopeful place. It’s most powerful when those two mix – hope rising out of fear.

One of our features as Homo sapiens sapiens is that we possess the ability to think beyond the here and now – to both hope and fear, for these are components of imagination. We can see possibilities. We can anticipate barriers.

Most of us lead comfortable little lives only barely tinged with the quiet desperation of Thoreau’s imagination. We go through rough spells. Some of us will throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do this.” But we can. We do.

Our lives sometimes feel like an endless stream of I-can’t-do-these-things-I’m-doing. Perhaps that’s the core of Thoreau – the desperation of self-imposed limits.

What-if is often seen as a brain-storming, motivational force. My what-ifs are worst case scenarios. I don’t think I’m a fearful person, but then again, I’ve had a right awful couple of years. There’s that old chestnut about 99% of what we fear never happens. If that’s an accurate statistic, my 1% has been powerful enough to cause lengthy analyses of dark what-if scenarios before I can move forward.

I discovered I was stronger than I thought I was. I’ve moved forward when I didn’t think I could even stand.

I-can’t-do-this is a lie.  

Still, I wasn’t impressed with myself.

I’ve whispered I-can’t-do-this and I’ve shouted I-CAN’T-DO-THIS. But I did it and I’ll do it. The doing can be worrisome, terrifying, humbling. It can also be strengthening. A large part of the downside is the fear of what will people think.  That fear is that we’ll be alone.

Another salient feature of Homo sapiens sapiens is that we’re pack animals. We need one another at the primal level. And yet we pride ourselves on our independence. We’re quirky creatures.

Pride is not an integral part of dignity. Dignity is imbued by the creator, pride is manmade. Pride can be squashed, but a loss of dignity is self-imposed. Independence is a chimera; and quirkiness, well, quirky is dignity in faded jeans and a clever t-shirt.

I’m not that strong. Every I-can’t-do-this that I’ve done has relied on help from someone. It’s always easier to accept help when you haven’t asked for it, but the I-can’t-do-this when the this is asking for help is a lie too. I can do this. I can ask for help. I’ve proved it.  And when I’ve been asked for help, I’ve always been happy to.  We’re pack animals, we’re cooperative – we’ve had to be to survive.

I-can’t-do-this is a lie.  

We-can-do-this is more accurate.

A cup o’bloomin’ tea.

Tea can provoke a need for candlelight.

Tea can provoke a need for candlelight.

My family are not tea drinkers. We had iced tea (no sugar – sweet tea was for communists), but we weren’t hot tea drinkers. Oh sure, the parents would let me order tea when I was 8, but they thought I just wanted it for the little silver pot. I did, but I also enjoyed the tea.

I got introduced to “Russian Tea” when I was 14. It was a dark black tea with cloves, dried oranges, cinnamon, star anise and something else. It was the first tea I ever had that was supposed to be lumpy and leave dregs. I’ve searched multiple states and multiple countries for it with no luck. Just last Christmas I found a reasonable substitute at a bookstore – Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice (with orange and cloves). It’s a lovely tea and I’ve grown fond of it.

The well-used kettle.

The well-used kettle.

I’m an unrepentant coffee drinker. Folks are astonished at the amount of coffee I drink. I’ve been told I’d fit right in at an AA meeting. I drink a pot of coffee before I even leave the house in the morning and another throughout the day. During the day, I’ll often also brew green tea. Or chamomile. Sometimes an Oolong.

I enjoy the ritual of tea – the boiling, the steeping, the pouring, and the accoutrements.



I like trying to “read the leaves.” I stir and watch the steam swirl. I deeply inhale the fragrance. Coffee is gulped, tea is savored.

I drink my coffee black except for the very rare occasion I have dessert – in which case heavy cream is required. But tea – now tea positively requires additives mostly because of tea sets – you have to put something in all those containers and if you’re going to put something in there then you have to use it.

The very-special English teacup.

The very-special English teacup.

I love tea sets and tea pots and tea cups. Coffee is everyday – utilitarian. Well, mostly it is. Sometimes coffee is just a caffeine delivery system and sometimes it is a spiritual experience. Tea, however, always provokes ritual. Sugar cubes, creamer, lemon, honey, Demerara sugar, spoons, tongs, pots, trays, kettles, shortbread cookies, and comfortable rockers.

Tea is not a beverage, it’s a mind/body experience.

The even more special dragon cup (and tea service).

The even more special dragon cup (and tea service).

I like a little Mozart with my tea.

My teapot collection, while not large, is diverse. Some of it is very formal even if I do almost always drink tea in faded jeans. The tea cup collection is far more sparse. I vow, now and again, to get more, but I’m usually overwhelmed by the choices.

Tea is almost always enjoyed in well-faded jeans.

Tea is almost always enjoyed in well-faded jeans.

Lipton’s black tea is fine. Cheap herbals are fine. Luscious imported teas, delicate whites, organic herbals and the like are, of course, much more appreciated. I love to hold the cup close to my face and breathe in the steam and aroma.

A couple of years ago I discovered in a magazine the “blooming teas.” These immediately rushed to the top of my “must have” list. Showing restraint, I did not order them and when Chef Boy ‘R Mine asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told him. My restraint centered on the fact that without the special teapot, the wonder of blooming tea is not fully realized.

Blooming tea.

Blooming tea.

Blooming teas are hand-tied bulbs of tea and other botanicals including dried flowers. When the boiling water is added, the bulbs “bloom” and one ends up with a floral arrangement in their teapot. It doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Said tea requires a glass teapot and a tea candle so that the blooming tea is visible. Brewing this tea is most spectacular in a dark room. The blooming teas are almost always one of the white teas; hence the tea is an amber color. With the tea candle shining upwards through the bottom of the pot, the view of the blooms is wondrous – a Monet water lily with a golden cast. The ritual of tea takes on a whole new facet with these bulbs.

Tea often demands a good book and a comfortable rocking chair.

Tea often demands a good book, an afghan and a comfortable Victorian rocking chair.

Still, I like the old standbys. Oolong is a favorite because it has the same mouth feel as coffee. The cinnamon/clove/orange tea is great heavily sweetened and drunk on a cold winter night. Chamomile is spectacular with honey and lemon.

When in England in 1998, I learned to drink tea with cream. I was in a little tea shop complete with white table cloths and a platter of “biscuits.” The tea was served with cream and sugar. When in Rome and all that. It was quite lovely and there are some days I just I have to have tea prepared that way along with some Walker shortbread cookies.

My 13th birthday china.

My 13th birthday china.

It’s always been interesting to me how and why we acquire the habits we have. I’m not sure why I’m so entranced with tea, but I suspect it’s the cups and teapots. I have more dishes than any one person can justify, because I love dishes. Now there’s a habit I can’t begin to explain – fine china, hand-turned pottery, hollow-stem champagne flutes, sushi plates, whimsical turkey soup bowls – you name it, I have it.

Tea is ritual – it’s the very epitome of right here right now.  It slows me down, centers and grounds me.  It’s a lovely respite from real life.

[If you’re into tea and ever in the D.C. area, don’t miss Ching Ching Cha’s – it’s a Chinese tea house that will, I promise, rock your world.]