“We leave at first light.” It’s hard to imagine a time when every aspect of a person’s life wasn’t dominated by the clock. We get up by the clock, go to bed by the clock, plan our activities by the clock. From a young age, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the clock. This is yet another aspect of my OCD.
A number of years ago, I met a woman with OCD. She didn’t tell me that she had it, but her habits were all too familiar. I was at her home for a meal with a group of friends, and I observed that she spent an inordinate amount of time washing the fruit she was putting out for us. And over the course of a few days, I saw that she had a difficult time being punctual – another shortcoming with which I struggle. Not that I believe that all people who are late for an event have OCD, but it seems that it is not uncommon. In fact, my fear of germs and habitual lateness developed concurrently.
Yet, in my teens and early twenties, I loved attractive timepieces, even the whimsical. I acquired a watch as a teenager, the face of which was adorned with images of the sun and the moon and had various calendar features. I was enamored of this watch for many years, until the day it stopped working. A new battery could not revive it. Feeling that strongly about it, I should have taken it to a jeweler, but I decided it was time to move on. It’s a bit foggy as to whether my germophobic tendencies had anything to do with it. It was in my mid-twenties that I became increasingly obsessed with the germs on my arms. When I washed my hands, I had to set a limit. At one time I had washed well up the forearms every time I washed my hands, but I developed a rash from the excessive washing that slowly crept up my arms. When I washed that way, I had no problem touching my arms. But when I started limiting my washing to the border of the wrist, suddenly my arms became off-limits. What this meant was that I could no longer wear a wristwatch. I have some recollection of trying to keep a watch pushed up on my forearm, but it would constantly slip down around the wrist. That was spreading germs, in my opinion, and that was the end of the watch wearing. Still being a watch-lover at heart, I couldn’t resist not many years later when I saw a silver Marvin the Martian watch. I wanted to wear it badly, but I couldn’t do it. I carried it in my purse for a while, but the acquisition of a cell phone put an end to that.
As the years wore on, the struggle between my full-time job and my insomnia made the clock my enemy. No longer seen as a marker of the sequence of life, it became the taskmaster prodding me to do the things I didn’t want to do. It told me to get out of bed even though that was depriving me of the rest I needed. It told me to leave my cozy home and go battle the crazy drivers on the road. It told me to go to the office where I had to deal with unpleasant co-workers. The clock wasn’t kind to me anymore. Maybe that’s why I take some pleasure in stomping on it many mornings. No, I’m not taking out my frustrations on my clock. I learned long ago that keeping an alarm clock near my bed in a clean place was an impossibility. I wouldn’t be able to turn it off (or, more likely, hit the snooze button) and keep my hands clean as I fell back into bed. The only alternative to using my hands was keeping it on the floor and using my foot. So, yes, I stomp on the clock with my foot when the alarm goes off. I even set the time with my toes!
This relationship with time and clocks has changed much through the years. I hope one day we can be at peace again, because I still admire a handsome timepiece.