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November 16, 2013

As Time Goes By: Fuggedabout 'tempus fugit' in not-so-fun times

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The Daily Star

---- — Someone recently asked me if I had one wish, what it would be?

Naturally I thought of all the classic ones like world peace, or no disease, or unlimited money. Instead I asked for the one thing we can’t get — TIME.

Time is broken down into nice numbers: 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour and 24 hours in a day. Now scientists have taken the second and talk about nanoseconds. One nanosecond equals one billionth of a second. I find this about as exciting as watching paint dry.

I find the phrase “tempus fugit” (which roughly translates to “time flies”) puzzling because time has variable speeds. The last five minutes of a football game can last 30 minutes and a 10-minute job on a root canal at the dentist can last for one hour of drilling, and at some point you invariably smell smoke.

“Smope,” you say through a mouthful of sponges and painkiller. “Fiber,” you say again hoping to get someone’s attention. “Only a few more minutes,” someone says, and you pray that this is so. Seemingly hours drag by.

As a kid, a day could last forever and you would pass out from exhaustion on your dinner plate and then morning would come and you had to be up to milk cows in the blink of an eye.

Servicemen always appreciated the time spent on leave. Two weeks or 30 days would go by in the blink of an eye and what could you show for it? (Sometimes it was a quick wedding and, after nine months, a new heir to the throne.)

Time always drags by when you have to do something you hate. Weeding a garden is a good example, changing a baby’s dirty diaper is another.

I’m not sure what Katie ate to create a substance the consistency of molasses mixed with quick-setting cement. One time I actually used a butter knife to scrape her bottom. She laughed — she thought it was funny. I could never use that knife for spreading butter ever again.

My wife tells me that “tempus” doesn’t fly when you are experiencing labor for 40 hours.

I knew that there were variations in the speed of time when I had to climb a rope in gym class. There was a big knot on the end, and when you stood on it you could swing around but that was as high as I could get. I would struggle for what seemed like days trying to get up that rope to pass gym class that year. I had recurring nightmares where I was 80 years old and still trying to get up that rope.

What was degrading was that so many of the kids could go up and down that rope like they were yo-yos. I always had questions about their family tree and how close they were toeating bananas 24/7.

Did you ever notice when you went to dance class and got a real “cool” partner, that the music stopped all too soon, but when you were partnered up with the winner of the Miss Beastly contest, five minutes lasted so long it seemed like you could drive to Oneonta for a burger and still come back before the music stopped?

Have you ever noticed that time never flies when you are watching television and you come to a commercial that lasts at least a half-hour? No wonder the plots seem so disjointed — it is because they had to cut so much out to make time for the commercial.

Time never flies when you are waiting to use a public toilet. There you are with a pressing matter and you walk through the facility door only to find the only toilet stall has a locked door. The first thing you do is to check under the door to see if there is really somebody there.

You wait and wait. Your pressing matter is acute — akin to giving birth. You hum a few lines of any song to let the occupant know somebody is waiting. You hum louder, even warbling a few lines, when there seems to be no activity. It now feels like hours have passed and you start to consider sitting in the stand-up urinal.

Finally the door opens and the former occupant says, “Oh gee, I didn’t know you were waiting.” You bite your tongue and do not say, “I didn’t know you were going to take up residence.”

Have you ever attended a deadly dinner party that lasted forever? You arrive right after the couple has had a “spat.” You find yourself working overtime to carry both sides of a joyful conversation and fail miserably.

“Tempus fugit” only when you don’t want it to and drags on when you are anxious to be somewhere else. As time goes by, I find myself looking back on memories with great joy. They all seem to have been created just yesterday.

Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by email at hgeerken@stny.rr.com. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.