Writers Workshop: Time Is Tight

Anatomy of an atomic clock. Source: brittania.com

Sorry I’m a little later than usual with this. I didn’t feel up to writing it yesterday and knew I’d be getting up early today, so I said "Ah, I’ll do it in the morning." Then one thing led to another and I fell into a wormhole… Anyway, I’m here now.

The technology for keeping time these days has really changed. Now, the absolute correct time is as close as your phone, because it’s connected to a cell tower and the company that operates the cell tower synchronizes the time with one of the many atomic clocks operated throughout the world that can give you the correct time to the nanosecond (such as this one). Before then, you pretty much had to get as close as you could by setting your watch to some more or less reliable source, such as the radio. Except that sometimes the time they announced on the radio was fast or slow, to fool the folks at Arbitron or the FCC. We used to have a phone number you could call in Chicago (I’ll just say it was CAthedral 8-8000, because if I try to find it I’ll fall into another wormhole) that would give you the correct time ("At the tone, the time will be nine… twenty six… and thirty seconds… (boop)…"). Most of the time, you got pretty close to the exact time and decided that was good enough.

We use the word "time" for an experience, usually one where you spend an hour or two someplace, like a party. "I had a great time at the party!" or "I had a lousy time at work today." Every life is full of good and bad times, and sometimes remembering the good times makes the bad time not seem so sad. Our veterinarian sends out condolence cards for when a pet dies that say "Remembering Happier Times" on the outside. They’ve recently started taking a pawprint of your deceased loved one that goes inside the card, and the members of the staff each write a little note expressing their sympathy. It helps. The vet also sends a check each month to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine along with a list of the deceased pets that month (maybe $1 a name), and UGA sends a condolence letter to each family on the list.

Man, how did I get on that topic? That’s what happens when you try stream of conscious-ing to write one of these. You’d think I got enough stream of consciousness writing on Saturdays, but no…. (Incidentally, I don’t think Linda will mind if I mention Stream of Consciousness Saturday and invite you to join us. We have a great time.)

18 thoughts on “Writers Workshop: Time Is Tight

  1. This reminds me of my dad setting his watch by tuning into radio station WWV: “tick…tick… tick…at the tone…”
    Now I have a digital clock on my end table that’s synched to the atomic clock in Boulder. I have a (somewhat of a celebrity) brother who’s all about this stuff. He gave us the clock šŸ™‚

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    1. “At the tone, 22 hours, 20 minutes, coordinated universal time.” We have a clock like that in the living room. A lot of those devices pick up WWVB, which broadcasts over longwave. It’s amazing stuff, really.

      I have two shortwave radios, and for the life of me I haven’t been able to get WWV on either one, or CHU (the Canadian time station). It’s driving me nuts.

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    1. I know a lot of people who still wear watches, my uncle Jack for one. They used to be essential, and even now they’re quite useful and decorative. Remember Swatches? People would collect them…

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  2. Oh man, something you mentioned in your post brought back nightmarish memories. Years ago, when we had what turned out to be our last landline, our phone number was one digit off from the local dial-for-the-correct-time phone number. Oh my goodness!!! I can’t tell you how many dialed-wrong phone calls we received — night and day! — until the phone company finally agreed to give us a different number without charging us for the privilege.

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    1. Mary’s number when she was still living at home was 847-6643. There was a carryout place who had the number 847-0043, and people would always mistake the O on the number 6 for the zero, so they’d get calls all the time from people wanting hamburgers or fried chicken. Finally, my father-in-law took someone’s order.

      Another time, I was calling a hospital that was a client of ours, and I transposed a couple of the numbers. What I got was an answering machine and the outgoing message of a man who had clearly had enough of people calling his number instead of the hospital, and was curtly informed that “DIS AIN’T THE F—N’ HOSPITAL!”

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  3. You did answer something for me, even if it were inadvertently. Since I’ve mostly turned off my cell phone (unless I’m in the car), THAT’S why I never know the precise ‘accurate’ time any more! LOL…A week from Sunday (Nov 1st) will see my ‘great state’ turning the clocks back an hour anyway. So I’d have been lost even with electronic aid…

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  4. Growing up we called a time and temperature phone number every morning. Not so much to check the time as to get the temp. I hadn’t thought of that number in a long time. Now I ask Alexa those questions…

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    1. I don’t trust Alexa. I use Siri to do minor stuff…

      We had separate numbers for time and temperature (actually, the whole weather forecast). For weather, you could dial WE-7 and any four digits. Couldn’t do that for time…

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  5. Interestingly the atomic clock has to be adjusted for “leap seconds” to accommodate the very gradual slowing of the earth’s rotation. Since 1972, a total of 27 seconds has been added to the atomic clock because the earth has slowed that many seconds in 48 years.

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    1. I thought about talking about that, then figured “nah…” I did see something about that the last time they did it (a couple of years ago, meaning we’re about due for another one).

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