"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."
"I got all the time that I need to kill."
~The Beastie Boys
My boss man recently decided that we all had to start using a time clock. Before we were on the honor system-- going about the work week in a very casual, almost Scandinavian fashion. True, people may or may not have been flubbing their hours. Whatever. Who am I to judge? Everyone got their work done. Why must we be inconvenienced by the technicalities of the when's and the how long's it took to complete said work? What does it matter? Why must I have yet another thing to log in and out of each day? Why are Americans so obsessed with details and seconds? What does an extra ten minutes here and there really mean? Can't we all get paid by the job and not by the hour? Clearly the introduction of the time clock is making me trip out about the heaviness of time and the bullshit of work even more than usual.
Much like capitalism, time is just one of those things I've never been able to get a handle on. I even briefly took a course at my liberal arts school that explored "time and space." In this class -----inhale-------we mulled over the religious, scientific, and philosophical aspects of time--------exhale----- What is time? A number of repetitions? Counting? Periodic motions? A sequence of events? Linear intervals in space? What's space? If space is infinite, how can there be linear anything? How can we even measure such a thing? What's infinity, man? Existential meltdowns would ensue as great scholars and inquisitive stoners would try to come up with some sort of universal definition. Ironically enough, not one person in this class wore a watch but we all managed to show up for a "limited period of intervals in space" each week.
To make things even more troubling, this class was taught in San Francisco - a city where January feels like August feels like May feels like October. I lived there for nearly a decade and never knew what time of the year it was. Nobody did. Birthdays were missed/forgotten. Shows were never when you thought they were going to be. Holidays were a blur. I never had any idea when Christmas was coming except for the changes in window displays. When I look back, it just feels like it was 1996 forever. Nobody aged either -- well at least not in the ways our friends on the East Coast aged. Was it because there was no emphasis on seasons passing? Was it our leisurely lifestyle? Was our lifestyle so leisurely because we never knew what time of the year it was? Was it just because everyone was stoned and had nowhere to be? There's no such thing as time when you're going nowhere and doing a whole lot of nothing.
That's another problem I had with time. I didn't trust the fact that it lost all meaning while under the influence of various drugs. When I was a bit younger, I remember having a terrible mushroom trip one beautiful Saturday afternoon. My boyfriend nearly went crazy because I kept checking the clock in our kitchen every second to make sure that "time was passing." In my drug addled state, time had officially stopped and I was stuck at 4:15 forever. This lasted for approximately five hours but "what are five hours" when "4:15 lasts forever, man."
Umm, one minute, I suppose.
Which brings me to the work week. The worst mushroom trip of all time can not compare to the stubbornness of time when you're stuck at work. Wrist watches might as well be handcuffs, my friends. Time is not on your side when you are an hourly wage slave. I find that Tuesdays can feel like three and a half weeks and 5pm is always a year away. Sure, there are tricks to make the time pass more quickly. There is the Internet and there are funny animal videos on Youtube. Some may even argue that watches are obsolete and Youtube videos are probably a more accurate time taking device.
"You guys, after I watch these seven wacky cat videos and three freak beat-Italian dance show ones, it will be time for lunch."
There are also ten-minute breaks. In theory, a "break" is supposed to indicate some sort of relief from the monotony of work but it's actually just the gift of time -- our time. It's our boss' way of saying, "Here-you-goooo, have your ten minutes back. Go craaaaazzzzzy." It's like a sip of water in the desert. It's approximately one cigarette.
another thing. I've never been a smoker and have always wondered if
everyone decided that ten minutes is the amount of time it takes to
finish one cigarette or if it's a bit more mathematical than that. I do
know that Europeans take infinitely longer breaks than Americans. Is it
because they smoke way more cigarettes? Or can they just smoke more
cigarettes because they have more time? Clearly I'm entering dangerous
"chicken or the egg" territory. Also, now that less people are smoking,
I'm starting to get mildly concerned that the ten minute break is slowly
Another thing that boggles my mind is how we've mathematically broken up the 24 hour day into these eight-hour intervals. It's suggested that you sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 hours, and then have 8 hours of your "free" time. 3x8 = 24. DONE and done. You guys, this formula sucks. People always end up cutting into their sleep time to get stuff done on their "free" time. We need more sleep, all kinds of free time, and waaaaaay less work. It's so obvious. Why fight it? Why do people roll their eyes when I propose that a 10 hour work week makes more sense than a 40-hour one? How do people get anything done when they're working for 40 hours? And what about the people like me that work and then come home and work on other stuff? I have zero "free" time. Almost everyone I know is walking around completely miserable, hating their jobs, and making elaborate to-do lists because there's never any "free" time -- especially if you're involved in the arts. The arts don't pay the rent. Why is rent so expensive? Why is this the norm? Why do we require so much work to make so much income to pay for so much unnecessary bullshit?
When I was in Junior High, I remember learning about various economic systems in my government class. The day we learned about socialism was particularly exciting for me and I couldn't figure out why it was frowned upon. I mean, here was this system that transcended commodity production and wage labor -- a system based on treating everyone fairly and distributing the wealth evenly. I raised my hand to ask Mr. Buzzkill what the deal was. Seriously, I failed to see the harm in any of those things. You know what that grumpy Republican screamed at me? How "it could never work-ism" and how "somebody always deserves to make more money-ism" and "communism" and "hipppies taking advantage of the system-ism" and "fascism" and "dream on-ism" and "OMG! the horrors of RUSSIA-ism" and "blablabla-ism." He may have even scribbled my name down. The dude was clearly pissed that I would dare to question our capitalist ways. He found our current model of exploiting the work force to be far superior. I never raised my hand again in that class. Whatever. I was reading a lot of Thoreau in English that year and discovering punk rock. He just sounded like a bitter old man to my tiny little revolutionary ears.
Ever since that day, I hear nothing but bitter old men yelling in my "revolutionary" ears -- bitter old men with time clocks and numbers. Why are they all so attached to this failure of a system? I often wonder why it is so "revolutionary" to think my way? It really isn't. This is basic stuff, people. Why are people like me looked down on for wanting to work less and have less? For simplifying our lives? For making music and creating art just for the sake of doing it? Why are we called lazy? Do you have any idea how time consuming it is to make things? We're not watching television and getting fat, my friends. We're producing stuff and thinking about things. WE are the American dream. We're not slackers expecting a handout. We're dreamers. Movers. Shakers. Why do people frown on us because we'd rather make music than make babies? Why is one thing better than the other? Why does everything have to revolve around a conservative view of "family" and not a more liberal view of "community". Why does it always have to be about the old ways? The money? The bottom line? What's wrong with sharing? What's wrong with believing in a better world? What's wrong with believing in each other? We're not all assholes. This isn't utopian/hippie bullshit nor is it impossible. I just think that there are better ways to live our lives and I could care less about the money, man. Money comes and goes but there is no possession that I value more than my time.
And it's time for a revolution.