What Time Is It?
Stuck without a watch, I decided to ask for the time. I found an elderly man seated by himself on the sidewalk, fondling a cup of coffee. He looked a little mangy, but this was Calabasas, where we pay the big bucks to live without fear of such people.
"Excuse me, sir, could you tell me what time it is?"
The man looked up slowly, as if I had caught him meditating ... on my demise. His voice was gruff and very not-Calabasas.
"What makes you think I know the time, son?"
"Okay, no problem," I said. "I'll just poke my head into one of these stores -- "
"It depends," he continued, "on whether you're referring to time as defined by the Roman Calendar or time as defined by the multitude of other calendars used throughout history."
I backed up to avoid the spit that flew from his consonants.
"Are you referring to the 304-day year that preceded the reign of Caesar or the 'reformed' calendar suggested by Sosigenes in 34 BC. . ."
"That's okay, I'll just poke my head into one -- "
"Maybe you mean the Chinese Calendar, in which case it's about 3 o' clock -- give or take a thousand years. We'd have to consult the Gregorian and lunar-solar systems, which divide the year into 12 months, each of which is 39 and a half days long..."
(This guy really didn't know what time it was.)
"Those little ticking devices on our wrists supposedly abide by a Christ-centered timeframe that is now fully five years shy of a 'millenium.' The millenium. Ha! The millenium was meant to begin with the birth of Christ on the day of Pentecost in the year 30 or 33 AD. Of course, the priests responsible for calculating time later added a leap year every three years instead of four, throwing the whole system into oblivion..."
An old Chicago song entered my head. Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anyone really care? I found myself caring less and less as time -- er, the day -- moved on.
The hoarse man gained momentum. His voice grew loud and trembly. I looked around to see if anyone was watching. As usual, it was just me without a witness.
"Let's not forget that the world now goes by 'Greenwich Mean Time,' a political contrivance to honor a port in England that aspired to be the center of everything. Even using GMT, the millenium arrived one year early, and we all shouted our fool-heads off for nothing. . ."
The man started to cough like there was no tomorrow, spilling his coffee between us. He did not look well. I offered him a napkin that I had been holding. It turned out to be more useful than a watch.
The old guy looked up at me and coughed into his new napkin. He scanned my eyes to see if I appeared any wiser than when I first asked my asinine question. I'm sure I looked like an idiot; it's a condition I have. He returned to fondling his coffee as though I had never been there, contemplating the timeless void in which we live. Unsure whether he had finished, I backed away quietly before he moved on to the Big Bang theory.
I guess the moral of the story is that (a) you should always carry a watch based on the Roman Calendar as amended by Sosigenes in 34 BC but only with the understanding that it is at least one full year off, not counting the leap years added by politically driven priests shortly after the birth of Christ, and (b) just because you're in Calabasas doesn't mean you're safe from the outlandish souls who wander this planet obsessed with such things as the meaning of time.