Tuesday, November 13, 2007

John's Clock Shop

My wall clock broke. The minute hand, long and graceful, remained steadfast. The hour hand hung lifeless at six. Removing it from the wall sent me into some bizarre zone of timelessness. The central timepiece of our family's existence, at the epicenter of schedules and meals marking comings and goings, its absence made me feel lost and realize that maybe my obsession with time isn't just something that comes across in my stories. Maybe a week on some rocky coastal island with no way to tell time but the rising and setting of the sun would do wonders to deprogram me.

Not too far from here, I found a homegrown clock repair shop nestled in a tiny brick structure on the backside of a property in suburbia, complete with french doors, a stalwart iron sign and an unassuming name: John's Clock Shop.

I'd never been in a clock shop. I can't lie. The prospect of going into one, the symbolism and time references in my stories fresh on my mind, seemed more than just an errand sandwiched between the grocery store and dry cleaners. It also made me wonder what kind of craftsman would choose to specialize in clocks? Would that person have the same semi-obsessive thoughts about time as I do?

I found John bent over his elevated worktable, the sun through a window at his back lighting his gray hair. Already a portrait of time. His chin rippled along his neck, compressed in a downward concentration of his task at hand. The air in the one room shop too warm. Too close. And filled with the random ticks of fifty or more clocks.

At first, the clicking, both chaotic and rhythmic, felt like standing in the middle of airport security, the movement of pendulums simulating the presence of nervous people clogging personal space. But the longer I stayed, the more the independent sounds became one, a white noise not unlike ocean waves or classical background music. Maybe this is the body's coping strategy to deal with too much sensory input.

I toured the room's periphery. Every object moved in some way--brass dials clicking, second hands sweeping, old-fashioned pulley systems keeping track of the passing moments. Some clocks lay stripped bare, others hidden in the bowels of some ornate wooden cabinet. Only a few showed the accurate time.

"I'll bet the time change wreaks havoc around here," I said.

"Nightmare, actually," John replied.

Had he given up calibrating them to Daylight Savings? Maybe the mere fact that they moved forward with time was enough for him. John didn't need a week in remote isolation to put time in perspective. Just the notion time is what it is and sometimes there's nothing we can do to control it.

John fixed my clock, free of charge. Doing what he loves to do. If you ever need a clock repaired, he's your man. Drop me an email and I'll get you in touch with him.

1 comment:

Marilyn Brant said...

John sounds wonderful and, as always, I enjoyed your post.

Once, during college, I realized I was looking at my watch, on average, every 15 I took it off for a week. It was interesting to experience relying on other means of judging time besides the watch on my wrist and, I'll admit, it felt emotionally healthier for me to go without wearing one. Eventually, I put it back on again but, whenever I'd start fixating, I'd remind myself that it was--in fact--possible to live without it :).