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Jim Bishop: Time is a friend – please don’t kill it

Column by Jim Bishop
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“Time, Oh good, good time,
Where did you go . . . ?”
– Pozo-Seco Singers (1966)

“Time is on my side, yes it is . . .” whined The Rolling Stones’ lead singer Mick Jagger in 1964.

Wonder if Grandpa Mick still feels that way after years of touring, still prancing around the stage but sounding and looking – along with the rest of the band – like they should have oxygen masks waiting in the wings.

Even as we bemoan the ravages of passing time, it nevertheless continues to govern much of what each of us does every day.

The alarm or clock radio sounds unceremoniously at 5:30 a.m., and after lying there listening to the local newscast and weather report, I reluctantly leave my warm, cozy bed to follow a ritual of preparation for another day, much of which unfolds on a time-oriented schedule. I get flustered, impatient or anxious when the unexpected invades my carefully-laid plans.

The importance of timing hit home for me back in the early 1980s when I worked weekend shifts on a local radio station. I had to be there at a precise time to take over for another air personality; showing up late was inexcusable. Each hour of my shift followed a carefully-outlined format.

As the top of the hour approached, I needed to backtime the music so that the song would end with about 10 seconds remaining, allowing time for a legal ID and the newscast to come in live off the network. I especially prided myself on having a song end “cold” rather than fade out and still have time to say, “WHBG, Harrisonburg,” then, bingo, the news . . . except for those times the network threw a curve and delayed the start a few seconds (dead air seemed an eternity).

For years a clock was nowhere to be found in our sanctuary at Community Mennonite Church. Not sure why, except that having one may not make a lot of difference since our worship services often extend right to the start of the Sunday school hour. Then, not that long ago, a clock appeared in the back just under the balcony. Who decreed that one was needed? It hasn’t seemed to reduce the number of people who arrive after the service begins (as an usher, I’m well aware of this pattern) or addressed the ongoing issue of the service butting up against the start of Sunday school.

In fact, I noticed just this past Sunday that the clock still hasn’t been adjusted for Daylight Savings Time on Mar. 14. Maybe that’s deliberate in hopes that the habitual latecomers will get the message to adjust their own internal clocks. But, I doubt it.

Arriving on time was drilled into me growing up in my family of origin. The Bishops were usually the first to arrive (and often the last to leave), whatever the engagement. Looking back, I think that is a valuable legacy imparted to us offspring. I’m convinced that operating habitually late is a learned trait, but one that can be changed.

Why is it that time seems to pass in a heartbeat when I’m engaged in fun activities – as Kermit the Frog would ribbit, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies” – and moves at sloth speed when sitting in a small crowded room waiting for an appointment or at a busy intersection for the light to turn green?

Time heals all wounds, and while there’s much truth in this adage, I’m conscious of those painful situations of the past that may have been mended but not completely forgotten. And, the sense of loss never goes away over time with the passing of parents or other loved ones.

Regardless of the hassles we face related to the relentless ticking of the clock, when the dust settles, each of us has the same amount of time in any given 24-hour day to redeem or to fritter away.

When my allotted time on this granite planet is up and the roll is called up yonder, I want to be on time . . . or I just might miss something.