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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Watching Clocks for Vanity or Status?

alarm clock, bought from IKEAImage via Wikipedia
What, no watch? How d’you tell the time, then?
I haven’t worn a wrist watch since I took voluntary redundancy from the Civil Service in April 1994. And, whilst many people ask me how I manage, I wonder why they continue to rely on a personal timepiece.
Every room in the house, except the smallest, has at least one clock ticking away the seconds. The sitting room mantel carries a carriage clock. The kitchen has a fruity round affair clinging to the wall, and digital displays on cooker, microwave and central heating controls. The bedroom has a self-correcting electric clock radio courtesy of my late step-mother; it wakes me with enough noise to rouse the citizens of Edinburgh. My daughter sleeps through her battery operated alarm, so I’ve installed an insistent radio alarm to ensure she escapes her bed before lunch. And my study contains a small ticking souvenir from a forgotten holiday, as well as the digital display at the bottom right of the computer screen. Every High Street I tread, with heavy, reluctant footfall, measures the passing of the hours with clocks in abundance, in the windows of the many jewellers or on the faces and towers of ugly municipal buildings. At the office (I had to return to employment to earn a living, unfortunately) there are clocks on all four walls, each recording a different time. One of these has forgotten it’s summer and continues to dwell in the winter of GMT. Every bus terminus, train station, and airport lounge sports clocks a plenty. My car, an inexpensive and not quite antique model, holds a clock amongst the various dials, switches and gauges that aid the driver. And, should I find myself stranded in the middle of nowhere, cruelly deprived of public timepieces; what’s in my pocket? Right; a mobile phone with, guess what? A time display.
In all the hours, days, weeks, months and years since I abandoned my personal reminder of time passing, I’ve never missed a bus, train or appointment. And I travel by public transport more frequently than I’d prefer: it’s cheap and helps save the planet, apparently.
So I ask; if I can live a modern life without one, why do so many people wear watches? Why are they so keen on constantly monitoring the ebbing of their lives? I find only two credible answers to this conundrum, and I suspect they’re closely linked. One is simple vanity, of course; a love of something special attached to the person to adorn and beautify, like any item of jewellery. The other is status, where the brand, style or material of the device declares its owner either rich or special. Thus; the designer watch, which tells the world how stylish and comfortably off is its wearer, or the timepiece with so many features it requires a heavy duty strap and over-developed biceps to be carried and remain in place, and reveals its user as a man of action, who thinks nothing of diving 30 metres into water, regardless of the need. And, we mustn’t neglect the hideously expensive watch, which describes its wearer not simply as inordinately wealthy but as boastful and lacking in basic common sense.
Now I’ve upset, angered, irritated and alienated almost everybody, I’ll take a minute to consider my stance on this.
Nope; still feel the same way.
Damn! Just missed the last post.

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