Almost Midnight

It was two weeks ago that my clock stopped. Two weeks ago, two minutes until midnight. The second hand was on the upsweep, challenging the gods of time in the way that second hands do, impatient and self-important, when it was forced to yield to influences it knew nothing of: Gravity, friction, and the inevitable.

It’s the only clock in the place. Out of habit I look at it several times a day, and it is always two minutes before midnight. How quickly I became accustomed to its presence over the door, ticking loudly. The clock stopped once before and I put in a new AA, but that didn’t last long at all and like hell I’m putting in another one.

It is not, and never will be, two minutes before noon. The clock stopped at night, just before the moment, and it hovers there yet, the hands waiting patiently for the impetus to sweep the final two minutes. I look that way and I wonder what I would do if that hands moved again. It’s two minutes until something big, but the clock is not ticking. Not that I can hear, anyway.

21 thoughts on “Almost Midnight

  1. Sounds like the nuclear clock that used to measure tensions between the Soviets and the good ol’ US of A. I don’t believe it made it as far as 2 minutes; didn’t it reach 3 minutes until midnight during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

  2. Nice entry. Do you know why, in ads and in stores selling time pieces, most clocks say 10 past ten? Apparently it’s because it resembles a face smiling. And that’s one to grow on….

  3. Actually, in the US, the time on advertising clocks is most often 20 minutes until 4. The legend is that this is the time Abraham Lincoln died; the reality is that putting the hands in the lower half of the clock leaves the upper half free for the shop name or logo.

    Meanwhile, jet lag does weird things, although I’ve never heard of jet lag that just stops at 2 minutes til midnight. Interesting thought: it’s never closing time at the bar (not that it ever is in the CZ anyway).

  4. Isn’t there an 80s song about 2 minutes ’til midnight? Some hair metal or something? Pants – luv the gravatar, what’s it from? “She’s got Marty Feldman eyes…” Weird Al.

  5. JERRY!!! It’s me Laurel!!! How are you??? I was searching for a claimant online (I work in the legal dept. of a large insurance company…I love it!) and found your blog! I haven’t had a chance to look at it too much…although it does appear that you are traveling! Stevie and I are doing great…bought a house in Portland, OR…doing a lot of outdoors stuff…biking, hiking, kayaking, etc. I see you did nanowrimo…my friend sydney and I did it as well. Mine sucked…but it was the first year for me (3rd for her…she writes gothic vampire/werewolf novels…one of her novels is getting published in not too long.) Check out her blog (kungfukitten @ diaryland)…

    Send me a line…I’ll write more next time!

  6. That clock was good to see when I came to the apartment after one of several nights of celebration and thinking I made it home before midnight. And then getting up before noon.

  7. About clocks and time stopping… an odd thing happened the other day. As I arrived at work I was asked the time and looked at my wristwatch. 11:45 it said.
    I am known to stroll in for work at random hours of the morning (…afternoon). Today, however, I was on time. My watch had stopped. I set it to the correct time anyway, out of habit or hope I don’t know which, and forgot about it. Hours later I glanced at my watch, again habit or hope, only now it was running. Not only was it running but it showed the correct time. Hooray for habits!
    My watch is still running now accurate as ever.

  8. Now compare that to the clock in the Atlanta airport where the second hand stuck to the minute hand and time seemed to fly.

  9. Andrew,

    Thats the first time I’ve ever heard the words “Atlanta airport” and “time seemed to fly” used in the same sentence.

    My favorite description of the Atlanta airport is: When you die, if you’ve led a sinful life, you’ll go to hell. To get there, you have a connection through Atlanta.

    Another unusual phrase occured on the Daily Show when Jon Stewart led off a bit about the rediscovery of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker with the phrase “Good news from the swamps of Arkansas … “.

  10. will it work to add comments until keith’s margin buster is pushed off the page? Let’s try and see…

    three more to go.

  11. Coming back to the US, our scheduled flights gave us only 50 minutes in Houston to get off the international flight, clear customs, get to another terminal, and get on our flight to Albuquerque. We figured there was a good chance we’d miss the connection, but it was no big deal, since we would be nearly home and there were lots of later flights to Albuquerque that we could get on.

    The plane from Paris was actually ahead of schedule, but then Houston was socked in under some nasty weather so planes couldn’t fly in or out. We flew around in circles for a while, until we ran low on fuel, and then we landed in New Orleans (but we couldn’t get off the plane since we hadn’t cleared Customs yet), and after some paperwork having to do with the airport there not really being prepared to refuel a plane that big, got fuel, and then sat around a while more for the weather and backlogged flights to clear before we took off, once again, for Houston.

    We got into Houston 4 1/2 hours late, but we still made our connection — that plane was running 5 hours late!

  12. Meanwhile, if you want the absolute worst nightmare of a connecting flight on the way to Hell, Atlanta pales in comparison to Charles de Gaulle.

    You may have seen in the news a year or so ago about how the roof caved in on the sparkling, modern, state-of-the-art Terminal E. With that terminal out (or at least motly out) of commission, the airport just can’t handle the volume of traffic it’s supposed to. Our flight from Prague arrived “at” Terminal B. Actually, it arrived on the tarmac a couple of hundred metres from Terminal B, and a peoplemover of the sort that was all the rage during the 1970s (a sort of jumbo-bus with the passenger compartment mounted on a giant scissors jack) came out to the plane, picked up the passengers, and conveyed them to the terminal building.

    We made use of the toilettes — about the only area of an airport in which older technology is superior, since these wait until the user wants them to flush, instead of making random, automatic flushes — and then figured out we needed to transfer to Terminal A to make our connecting flight. There is supposed to be a monorail that goes from terminal to terminal, but since that monorail goes through the heart of Terminal E, it wasn’t working. Instead, we had to get on a bus.

    So we got onto the bus at Terminal B. The next stop was Terminal D, where some really obnoxious Americans got on; they were transferring to Terminal B. As the bus continued on its rounds, through terminals F, E (yes, while it’s mostly out of commision, it does have a few flights), and C, the obnoxious Americans got louder and louder, and the poor Lebanese bus driver, whose French was OK but whose English was short on vocabulary, was trying without success to explain that the bus would get to Terminal B soon enough. In exasperation, he blew past Terminal A so he could get rid of them. So we had to go around again before we could get to Terminal A.

    When we finally got off the bus and entered Terminal A, I felt like I had entered a post-nuclear-holocaust movie set. The building was quite literally crumbling. What I am sure were originally lovely marble floors were pitted and dull; tiles were falling from the ceiling; windows were cracked; and everything had a pervasive mildew odor. The check-in desk we were at was shared by Continental and El Al; besides us, there was an elderly couple who had been on the plane with us from Prague and who were flying stand-by to Tel Aviv; they knew Czech and Hebrew; the counter attendants knew French and English. They had been visibly disconcerted when the bus didn’t stop the first time around, and they were still a bit rattled. Fortunately, they and the counter agent both had enough English to communicate, and she did a great job of reassuring them.

    But the nightmare of our transfer adventure continues. The seats in the gate areas of Charles de Gaulle are definitely designed for torment. They are hard, slick plastic, and they are tilted forward, so one cannot remain seated in them; one just slides forward out of them to land unceremoniously on the floor. If you ever have to spend time in Charles de Gaulle, be sure to take a non-skid mat, such as people in California use to keep dishes from vibrating off shelves during earthquakes. Even if you do use such a mat, however, I suspect these seats are horribly uncomfortable because of their hardness and tilt (I can’t say for sure since I wasn’t successful in sitting in one for more than about 30 seconds).

  13. But the story still isn’t over. When, finally, our flight to Houston began boarding, we had still more adventures ahead. This time, the plane was a half-mile away, and we had to take a regular bus rather than the elevating people-mover to get to it, and because of security concerns (we had never officially entered France), the passengers couldn’t all just pile off the bus and onto the plane, but had to be controlled. And getting onto the plane involved going up an old-timey set of stairs mounted on the back of a truck. As far as I could tell, there was no provision for passengers who used wheelchairs or who for some other reason couldn’t climb stairs.

    All in all, if you have to change planes in Atlanta, you’re probably only going to Purgatory. You get to Hell by way of Charles de Gaulle.

  14. Oh, one other thing about Charles de Gaulle (the airport, not the person) … yes, there are some more comfortable seats; they’re in the smoking lounges. Next to the smoking lounges are non-smoking lounges, but all of the air circulates among all of the lounges, so for all practical purposes, all of the lounges are smoking lounges.

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