Monday, December 14, 2009

Little Drummer Boy

I love that scene in Casablanca in which Carl, the headwaiter (the great Hungarian actor S. Z.Sakall), sits down to have a drink with his two old friends who are on their way to America. After their toast, the man turns to his wife and asks, "Sweetnessheart, what watch?" She looks down at her wrist and replies, "Ten watch." He remarks, "Such much?" And Carl, bemused, comments, "You will get along fine in America."

I was thinking of time all day today. Starting in the beginning of the day. I went to bed at 1:40, a time that invites the judgment of one's peers. Normally I get up for my son at 6:30, so that's about five hours of sleep. But I woke even earlier, registering that it was 6:19 and Carol was still asleep. (She normally gets up at 5:15 for her job as a high school teacher.) "Carol?"

Waking to lateness is a kind of eruption-cum-D-Day landing. "What happened?" she asked, blankets flying. I suddenly remembered her radio going off on Sunday after she'd gone upstairs and me sliding the bar on the radio to Off. It was the wrong Off. So, amid the falling cinders of her (initial) annoyance, I got up, made her a quick PB&J sandwich for breakfast (and one for Matt for lunch) and felt defensively remorseful and then just defensive as the topic turned to the undone dishes in the sink: another casualty of the wee hours. (We; ours)

I couldn't go back to sleep yet. Had to go get a flu shot at 7:45. Borrowed my father-in-law's car, had it back as promised by 8:30, but was too tired to go to the morning Tai Chi class at 9:00, even though I didn't finally drag myself to bed till 9:40. But that set the tone for the day. Slept till 11:40, missed a work phone call. Foozled desultorily through a few chores, including the abovementioned dishes. Left to meet friends for tea at 3:30, just making it after waiting for 25 minutes in line at the post office, glancing at my wrist periodically (Three watch. Such much?) while the line inched slowly forward.

I realized what my advent picture was for the day, a December classic for a change: a little drummer boy. That's basically what watch time or clock time is, it seems to me. A little drummer boy marching in place, tirelessly drumming to an endlessly reliable rhythm. And depending on which drumbeat we link our movements to, we're late, we're early, we're right on time. I don't disdain this servant of ours. I'm just not sure what relationship he has to the time dictated by the space dance of the sun, Earth, and moon. He seems oblivious. But he also reminds me of the Salvation Army guy outside the drugstore today, steadily ringing his bell and offering to watch my bike for me. "You will be rewarded for your vigilence," I promised. To which he replied, "It's all about helping." Yes, it is, I thought, feeling like George Bailey at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life." But later, after I stuffed two bills into the X of his kettle, his "Thank you" seemed a little tardy. The moment had passed.


  1. i also foozled desultorily through today. just couldn't have described it as well.

  2. Oh, "Such much," I love you.

    Anya and I are miffed not to have been present in your blog post except as "friends for tea."