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Time keeps on slipping, slipping...

I can't independently confirm this, but something strange is happening. In any other situation I'd certainly question my sanity, or at least my clock batteries. But it's true, it's really happening: time has sped up.

I first noticed about a week ago. I was in the middle of grading my students' papers and taking a break from reading the book I'd be lecturing about the following morning. The phone rang. It was Heather.

Where was I? I was supposed to meet her for a six o'clock dinner twenty minutes ago, and the movie we're seeing starts at 7:30. I must have lost track of time. I grabbed my coat and dashed out the door. Over an unusually spicy meal, we talked about the two research papers I'm working on and the latest adventures of her sixth-grade students. We were paying the bill when I first noticed that something was strange. It was 7:45.

We missed the movie! We must have lost track of time, we lamented, and off we went to the video store for a rental. The next morning, I woke up late. My alarm clock said eight A.M. when I first hit the snooze button, but I know very well that I had set it for seven. If the same thing had not happened again the very next morning, it probably never would have occurred to me to do what I did next.

Lying it bed, thinking, I realized that time may be moving faster. If I'm going to find out for sure, I need to time the clock. That is, I need to find a way to test the calibration of time itself. The problem: what does a person use to test such a thing. What could I calibrate time with? A clock? A stopwatch? The magnitude of the thought of that existential moment brought out a nervous laugh.

For the past couple of days I've been pulling my hair out trying to find a way to time time. My first experiment (which in hindsight seems naive) began with a well-worn recipe for my delicious chocolate chip cookies. I've made them enough times to know that fifteen minutes in the oven will produce beautifully golden-brown cookies. If time has indeed sped up, as I suspected it had, the cookies will be raw at the end of fifteen minutes (which, in a state of accelerated time is really less than fifteen minutes). In went the cookies. I closed the oven and sat down at the computer to address an unending accumulation of unanswered emails. Fifteen minutes passed and removed the cookies - they were charred black!

I know now that when time speeds up, it doesn't leave cookies behind. Indeed, everything I cook burns much faster than I expect. Cleaning up afterwards takes longer than ever before. My twice-daily dog walks used to be brief, but now take a serious chunk out of my day. Making dinner, returning phone calls, watering the plants, going to school and back, meeting with students, answering emails, scanning the news headlines, grading papers, getting books from the library, prepping for class, reading a book chapter, writing a research paper - it all takes longer now than it ever did before.

A series of inconclusive experiments followed the cookie fiasco, until I stumbled upon a sure-fire test. If I'm going to confirm that I'm not going insane, that time is actually moving faster, I have to go to an outside auditor: Mom. I called her at five o'clock this evening and explained my situation. Without hesitation, nor question of my sanity - I can always count on Mom - she immediately agreed to help. We decided to stay on the phone for a while and then compare our clocks to see if time was only moving faster for me (in which case, I very well might be insane).

Now, my mother is quite a talker, so killing an hour on the phone is not at all difficult. We talked about my childhood friends, making cookies together when I was seven, the several cats that we've raised from birth to death, introducing her to my prom date. In fact, we talked about most of the major milestones in my thirty-two years, a remarkable span of time and experiences that, with my mom, is easy to cover in a single conversation. I finally remembered to check the time. I asked her to do the same.

That's when it hit me. Our clocks were identical. This was no hallucination confined to my own little world, time had in fact sped up everywhere!

Tonight, I've been reflecting on the week's events and the implications of my discovery. I feel a little more relaxed, despite the severity of the situation. Even though a fundamental dimension of reality has changed, I at least now have an answer. No, I'm not crazy. Yes, there are indeed too few hours in the day. And now, I can't spare any more time to write this - it's already time for bed.

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping...”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    You know... this is the weirdest thing because georgeanne and I have been commenting about time speeding up for about a week now. And it's just how you describe it.. things that should take an hour take four. My theory was that the earthquake in the pacific tipped the earth's axis (it did do that) and that caused the earth to spin quicker. However, I see your post is from the day after my birthday, therefore my theory is now invalidated. Crap. At this rate we'll be dead at the end of the week!
    -Lisa
    www.livejournal.com/users/degasita