TEMPUS FUGIT


Every weekend, a woman dressed like one of those Russian nesting dolls stands outside my local grocery store selling a paper that supports the homeless. And every Friday for the past ten years I’ve given her £2.50 for a paper I never read.

Finally after ten years I found myself thinking: “That woman can’t be much more than thirty-five. Shouldn’t she have found a job by now? I mean she looks totally healthy, except maybe for the gold tooth. Anyway a gold tooth. What is the price per ounce?

So I stopped giving her money. And every Friday her reproachful eyes followed me out of the grocery store, her gold tooth glittering with accusation.

I became obsessed. Was she sinisterly lurking? Should I try another supermarket? There’s one only 7 miles away. Anyway who needs to eat? It could be a good excuse for a diet.

And then suddenly I realized it wasn’t her or even her gold tooth that was making me upset. It was seeing her meant it was the weekend.

Again! What in the hell happened to the week?

Time flies. Tempus Fugit.

I remember my dad used to say to me: “It goes by in a blink of an eye.” Which was not one of his more profound statements I know.

My mom used to say: “I don’t understand time.” Actually my family was a lot smarter than they sound. But essentially it’s what I’m saying.

I have an electric toothbrush that takes exactly two minutes to complete its rounds. It feels like whole civilizations could have been built in the time it takes to brush my teeth. I’ve been to dinner parties that lasted fourteen weeks. Or how about the month it takes while I’m standing at the door, sweating in my heavy overcoat, while my husband decides that’s the precise moment he must change a light bulb?

What’s the big rush? Was I planning on writing the next great American novel in the couple of minutes I spent, eyes narrowed with irritation, at the front door?

And I’m not alone.

I live in London where everyone can’t even wait for the escalator into the subway, but race down the moving steps knocking over everyone in their path.

Nor can they stop to write a text, but do it on the fly, bumping into lampposts. Or in line at the supermarket checkout, shuffling their feet in irritation at the sweet little old lady who is methodically counting out her change.

Come on, just how important is what most of us are going to do? Send a smart-ass text to a friend or a smiley face to some guy in HR? And while we’re at it. Human Resources? That sounds like something from one of those Time Management men in a 1940’s movie.

What are we all rushing to? Why can’t we wait a minute?

Was Buckingham Palace on the line desperate to get my opinion on Prince Andrew while I was waiting at the front door? Was I due to testify at the Impeachment Hearings? Or was it more like: Do you know how much television I could have been watching in that minute I just wasted waiting for you?

There’s the old saying that when people die they never wish they had spent more time at the office. Which is to imply that they wish they had spent more time with their family.

Maybe.

Or maybe they wish they’d spent more time drinking until they were rat-faced with pals or climbing in the Himalayas or could be they do wish they had spent more time in the office. I think the wish is actually for more time.

Tempus Fugit.

So last week I stopped and really thought about the week that had just passed. At first I couldn’t think of one momentous event, one even small happening. I tried to reconstruct it. Maybe a hygienist appointment. A Dermatology appointment. Impossible. An entire week had flown by.

Panicky I looked at my calendar. I’d had two really good meetings, several nights out with friends and hundreds and hundreds of wonderful laughs. Amazing. I’d been running so fast I hadn’t even noticed the scenery.

It was not Tempus that was Fugiting. It was me.

Sometimes time freezes and sometimes it slips through my fingers. I don’t know how often I’ve resolved to treasure every minute, try to capture it like Jim Croche’s: “Time in a Bottle.”

But the thing is, in that special moment, there’s always an irritating fly buzzing in my ear, or the beginnings of a blister on my heel or I have to go to the toilet… and suddenly the moment vanishes.

There are a whole bunch of clichés on this: stop and smell the flowers, live in the moment. And like most clichés they speak to the truth.

I think we can control time. Sort of. I think it’s possible to not just watch events in the rear view mirror, but to live them in real time. To stop, appreciate, and if not cherish the moment, at least to notice it.

At all events I’m determined to keep trying, imperfectly, but still trying to cram that moment back into the bottle.

Meanwhile I realize Friday is looming and that woman (and her tooth) will be outside of my local supermarket.

Will I give her the money? Maybe. (But she still ought to get a job.)

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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