When 5 is 30

Horologists, horrible as the word may sound, are people interested in time and in the means and mechanisms for time keeping. An aside: Another awful-sounding word is “philatelists.”

 

At least one old story asserts that measurement of time was a necessity for the orderly and regular practice of religion. It’s unlikely any one religion was being singled out or celebrated.

 

Just the fact that practicing religion was something to be accomplished on god’s schedule, not the mortal’s.

 

Time keeping devices helped regulate religious practice and devotion.

 

All of which sounds pretty good and equally hard to argue against.

 

Once we got into the time-keeping habit, though, is when time measurement went astray.

 

For once upon a time we all knew what five minutes was and, even without a device, could estimate its “space” with pretty close precision. Some, of course, were better at estimating it than others.

 

Among the changes wrought by modern culture is the distortion of time. Probably not as Einstein envisioned things, though.

 

Take football, for instance. The screen shows five minutes remaining in the game. Thirty minutes later, the game is (finally) over.

 

What was gong on during the other 25 minutes? Bathroom breaks?

 

Parents, too, are well-known offenders to long-established rules of time-keeping. Their watches regularly measure five as only “one” though sometimes as much as “30.”

 

Another cohort notorious for temporal distortion is boy/girlfriends. “Back in five” is code for 20, sometimes 25 and more often 30 minutes.

 

Mass transit, though now long abandoned as a form of physical movement from place to place, was famous, first, for the precision with which time was kept and, more recently, for its flagrant ignorance of the system.

 

Railroads required accuracy for time-keeping. Otherwise, two trains travelling in opposite directions on the same track would collide. It had nothing to do with making sure commuters caught the Jersey Central in order to get to work.

 

Yet mass transit today follows a schedule willfully ignorant of the discrimination between 5 and 30 minutes.

 

All the while rail-riders stand outside in the cold.

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