Time traveling

The long-running joke in my house growing up was that a lifetime of commuting had warped my dad’s sense of time. What for most folks in my Long Island town was a tidy 10-minute drive to Waldbaum’s was for my father a precise 9-minute sojourn. Fifteen minutes to St. Agnes Cathedral on Sunday? Make that 13 minutes for Dad—and you could set your watch by it. The way he saw it—and who would argue—you don’t leave the house before you have to and you don’t arrive until it’s necessary. Knowing the exact length of a trip meant more time to do what you wanted. After all, my dad was already a commuter at age 13, and after some 60 years of catching, say, the 7:42 in and the 5:17 home, he knew that each minute mattered.

Me? I’ve been commuting just shy of four years, but already I sense the beauty of “Dad time.” I know I need to leave the house by 6:54 to catch the 7:13—a scheduled 56-minute ride into GCT. I reach the bottom of the staircase up to Madison and 47th at 8:13 (8:09 on good days, 8:19 on too many), and walk into my building 10 (yes, exactly, I’ve timed it) minutes later. My reverse trip is just as structured.

This is how it goes for most train commuters, I suppose. We keep to a schedule that’s not of our own making; it’s one we work with—or around.

The impact, I’ve learned from my dad, isn’t as constraining as it sounds. Am I locked into a life of clock-watching rigidity or am I somehow put more at ease, knowing how much time I have to do everything else—both the important and the insignificant? My best guess is that the one opens the door for the other. Clearer though, as I write this at 5:28 pm, is that I have exactly 51 minutes to ponder this further before I’m back home for dinner and precious time with my partner.

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6 Responses to “Time traveling”

  1. jellykean Says:

    My dad has always been a time junkie. As a kid, if he was suppose to pick me up at 2:00, the car would round the corner at exactly 1:59 to reach me at 2:00. I swear he would sit and wait if he was early! hope you had a lovely dinner!

  2. Zora Says:

    Totally true. I don’t have a regular daily structure, but I have always been one of those people who chronically bargains with the clock, and winds up leaving the house five minutes later than necessary (as you know from my being chronically late to work…). Recently, I started plugging my plans into Google Maps’ public transit gizmo, which tells me exactly when I need to leave the house. Now I’m always on time _and_ relaxed. It is freeing to have those extra minutes, and to absolutely know you can use them.

    The only problem is that none of my friends are on time–probably because they got used to my being late.

    • gkimmerling Says:

      And yet we seem to have so many more clocks in front of us these days: on PDAs, dashboards, laptops and watches (does anyone really need to look at a watch anymore?)

  3. Susan F Says:

    My father was never home at a predictable time. No train schedules. He drove an hour from Boston to Lawrence and back every day, so the traffic, weather, and whatever was going on at the plant dictated his arrival home time. “See you when the cows come home” was the standard morning goodbye, and those cows came home at all different times.

    And many of our family members have adopted his practice of giving himself a little extra time by pushing the clock ahead a bit. Of course he put every clock a few different minutes ahead, so we never knew the real time. I set some of my clocks ahead, but sometimes can’t remember how many minutes extra I have. But the trick usually gets me places on time. Thanks Daddy.

  4. Jill Finsen Says:

    And I am the sometimes late Finsen and even late in posting this reply. No fiction clocks for me. it is all a reality wakeup/

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