Public Time

I own one working watch. And it doesn’t tell time.

It’s my Garmin Forerunner 305, a GPS running watch that I got last summer. It tells me how long I’ve been running and how far I’ve gone (down to the hundredth of a mile), how fast my heart is beating, how fast I ran the last mile, and any number of other things. It could also tell me the time of day, but I’ve just never set that function, because I only wear it while I’m running anyway.

The rest of the time, I rely on the clock in my cell phone. It’s sort of a pain to dig it out of my pocket, but at least I know it’s always accurate. And maybe, in my second half-century of life, it’s just not as important to me to know the exact time anyway.

The other day, though, I went for a long run, knowing I had to be home at a certain time because of other responsibilities. About a mile in, I realized that I couldn’t remember what time I’d left the house. Although I could look at my Garmin and see exactly how long I’d been out, I didn’t know what time it was, and therefore, didn’t know how long I could run and still safely make my later obligations. I began to think about somewhere I could run where there was an outdoor clock, so I could check the time. And it occurred to me that such clocks have all but disappeared.

It used to be that you couldn’t go a block on a busy commercial street without seeing at least one business that had a clock as part of its sign. Usually, if it was a digital clock, it alternated between time and temperature. One place — I believe it was a brokerage office — had an electronic display along Hwy. 40 that would display the time with the Dow Jones average (that one may still be there, come to think of it). Banks always seemed to be the most likely to have clocks on their signs. It wasn’t unusual to pass half a dozen public clocks on a short drive through a business district.

The game was to find two clocks close to each other that had different times, or different temperatures.

Not any more, though. Even though there’s now seemingly a bank on every corner, most of them have done away with the public clocks. Why? Are the clocks just too expensive to calibrate and maintain? Is it because everyone has a digital clock in their car now? Or did someone do a marketing study and find that  displays of time passing cause too much stress in the customer public?

Or, has the rest of the world joined me in being a little more casual about time?


3 thoughts on “Public Time

  1. Addendum: This morning I went for a run on my most commercial route. I actually saw three clocks. All were analog, and two were obviously, laughably, wrong. Only the one on the Webster City Hall MIGHT have been right, but I forgot to check it the second time past to see if the hands had moved at all.

    By the way, I passed at least four banks in about a quarter mile — none had clocks.

  2. Last night, on Hampton, we saw a circular message display in lights on the front window of a salon which featured the time along with enticing ads for pedicures and massages. Maybe you will make an appointment, to look forward to, after your trail quest on Sunday.

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