I Can't Believe It's Not Blogging

The Message is Medium Rare

Ten Minutes Ahead

Jan 19 2004

These are symptoms you have been told to fear:

  • sudden weight loss
  • extended lethargy
  • inability to enjoy things you used to
  • a giveaway of most material possesions in a short period of time
  • a noticeable change in bowel or bladder habits
  • a sudden fondness for citrus or neon tones
All signs of some serious illness or another, they come second only to "flu-like symptoms" and the department of homeland security's color-coded terrorist alerts as harbingers of incipient danger and disease. But I recently encountered another one, a lesser known one, one that I certainly wasn't aware of, until I developed it in the last two weeks:

The ability to actually be fooled by the act of setting your own clock 10 minutes ahead.

Everyone I know knows this does not work on normal, clinically healthy individuals. Even the people I know who persist in doing this know it doesn't work. It doesn't work with 10 and 5 minute intervals, because counting by 5's and 10's is very natural to most people, but even if you throw yourself the curveball of using something a 7 minute interval, your brain will catch you at it and remind you to subtract 7 every time you see the clock. Your brain will also--inexplicable as it may be because you always had trouble with 7's in school--get very good at 7's. There's no way around it. Normal human beings are too smart.

Sometime in the last two weeks, I fell below this level.

Perhaps it was because I didn't do it on purpose. I was just trying to reset my alarm clock one night, give myself a few moments of extra sleep, but I pressed the wrong button and accidentally incremented the current time rather than the alarm time. I was tired, and felt sure that in the morning I'd know the difference anyway. Everyone always does. So rather than resetting the clock, I adjusted for the 10 minute offset.

I woke up the next morning and it took me an hour to figure out.

But that's not the scary part. The scary part is that I've done it every day for the last two weeks. I only get it when I finally go outside and see, say, the clock in my car and realize it's about 10 minutes earlier than I thought it was.

Perhaps it's because for a while (perhaps too long) I've driven cars that have exaggerating speedometers. This is good: when it works, it can keep you out of speeding trouble, and it usually does work, because you didn't set the speedometer, and you don't know how accurate it is, or if it changes if you get faster, and you have no other way of verifying how fast you're going most of the time anyway, so you just listen to (well, read, really) the speedometer and feel really good about that 75mph even if you have a sneaking feeling it's only really 60mph.

But clocks aren't speedometers. This much is plain. I know my brain doesn't adapt to speedometers, and it normally adapts to clocks. Especially after a few weeks.

Maybe it's the 10-12 hour days.

Maybe it's the 14-18 hour days.

Maybe it's time to change the clock.

Or maybe it's good to have a canary in the mine.

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