Lost Time

Jenny followed her father around the house. It was the first day of spring and all of their clocks must be changed. They had some old-fashioned clocks with hands that needed turning, but the rest were digital; some changed themselves, and you had to manually change others – and she wasn’t sure about things like the Nintendo.

“How do you know whether to put them forward or back?” she asked.

“Remember I told you, Jenny,” said her father, adjusting the big wall clock. It chimed many times while he did so. “Spring forward, fall back.”

“Yes I remember that, but why do we put them forward or back?”

“It started during the First World War as a way to save coal,” he said, fiddling with the red desk clock; its ticks got louder rather than quieter. “Germany did it first, then Britain and her allies.”

“But why do we still do it today?”

“If you put clocks forward, it means that you start and end the day later.” He repeatedly clicked buttons on her alarm clock, as the radio went on and off. “So you have more daylight hours. It helps farmers.”

“But isn’t the amount of daylight the same? What difference does it make?”

He struggled with the microwave’s buttons; it was beeping and flashing. “People waste daylight in the mornings because they’re sleeping. If you move it to the evening, they can use it for sport.”

“But aren’t days longer in the summer anyway? What’s the point?”

Her father cursed the microwave, which had somehow zapped his nose. He said, “I don’t know Jenny. We just do it every year. Spring forward and fall back. It’s a tradition.”

Her father knew more than her friend’s parents did, for sure. They had only told their children about farmers; not about World Wars and sport. But Jenny wasn’t satisfied with her father’s explanations. Her central concern remained – what happened to that time?

Since her birth on February 29th, twelve years ago, Jenny had been obsessed with time. She had, with her father’s help, built a sundial in the garden, as well as a water clock. She had made a model of Stonehenge, and had plans for a tiny Newgrange. But all the time that was lost when putting clocks forward, or shaving off a quarter-day each year and then making a leap year later, or with the creation of a new calendar, as had happened many times in history – that time must go somewhere. Where did it go?

Jenny decided that there was only one way to find the answer. She must chase that time. She observed the effects of annual time changes, and realized that they had nothing to do with helping farmers. Where this notion came from, she had no idea.

Time had to be looked at in context. Ancient societies used solar time, where daylight had twelve hours, regardless of day-length. So depending on the season, an hour could last anywhere from 40-80 minutes, and you adjusted activities accordingly. But modern societies ran on standard time. Their work, school, and transport schedules were rigidly set; they continued regardless of darkness or light; they ran unnaturally.

Farmers were in tune with the seasons. They began at sunrise without the need to fiddle with their clocks. If anything, putting clocks forward hurt their activities. Their labour and supplies were usually on standard time, and arrived an hour earlier than “real” time. This was before the dew evaporated on crops, making harvesting them less efficient; dairy cows milking schedules were disrupted; rural children took long bus rides home in searing early afternoon heat; and it remained lighter longer, so it was harder to get them to bed. Farmers hated DST.

Jenny learnt that a leap year did not have 365 ¼ days. It had 365.242374 days. So even a leap year was an approximation; a clumsy attempt to mark solar time with standard time. We never got it right really; we were only ever guessing. Traffic accidents increased when we switched to DST, there was more cancerous sun exposure; there were timekeeping complications; disruption to travel and meetings; billing and recordkeeping errors; difficulties with complex medical devices and safe equipment operations; and broken sleep patterns.

Losing time was dangerous. Everything we were told about it was lies.

Jenny devoted herself to the study of time. She did a science degree, a postgraduate degree, and then a PhD in “The Chronology of Lost Time Incorporating Ancient Babylonian, Greek, Indian, and Chinese Sources”. Her research took her to these and many other places. She became an international authority on lost time. She had no time to get married or have children herself. Her only concern was to find the lost time. But it always eluded her.

A clue was yielded by a conversation she arranged between a Zimbabwean Witchdoctor and a Mayan Shaman. They spoke of times such as sickness, drunkenness, and madness as being “outside time”. Jenny felt that these were avenues worth pursuing.

When she couldn’t get funding for her research – deemed too risky by academic legal departments – Jenny decided to continue alone. She allowed herself to become sick regularly, and didn’t take her medicine. She drank herself into a stupor. She stressed herself till she had a nervous breakdown. These were all productive experiences which enhanced her knowledge of lost time. But they didn’t go far enough.

She consulted a Finnish sage. He said that the way to hunt lost time was “through the blind eye of the Dreaming Eagle”. He gave her a resin to chew which would help her to “fly high with her sightless feathered brother”. It certainly did, and led her on to other “flights” with other brothers. She used Marijuana, Mescaline, Ayahuasca, Mushrooms, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Amphetamines, Barbiturates, LSD, Opium, Solvents, and Heroin. They each held clues to lost time – especially the Heroin, which “lost” her a night in jail, and then three months as a dealer. A bad batch finally stopped her heart. And at that moment, she realized where time went if not used wisely. It simply disappeared.

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One Response to “Lost Time”

  1. Woah!! Great concept

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