The descent of the grains of sand,
the sweep of a shadowed hand,
and the silent clacking of a clock
goes tick-tock, tick-tock.
Of all spells available to the modern-day magic users, perhaps the most tempting to use would be those that alter or control time. Strange it is, however, that no magic has ever been powerful enough to fully control the progression of time.
Time is, indeed, a very powerful force and harnessing it is quite risky, to say the least. It has weathered rock cliffs, eroded mountain slopes, built and destroyed empires, dug valleys and even corroded monuments that were supposed to withstand the passing of time. True, its actions may be as slow and feeble as an aged hermit but this old man has lived far longer than us. If, as they say, experience is the best teacher, then this hermit has the cunning sagacity and shrewd wisdom of an old man who has lived since the beginning of, well, time.
This recent holiday season, I have received a several e-Books from a close friend, including a copy of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. A very scary non-fiction, its first few chapters, dealing with the forces within the universe, makes for a very scary read. More than ever, it has highlighted to me the fact that time is not a force to be trifled with. With events like volcanic eruptions, continental drift, asteroid bombardment, global ice age and the desertification of Africa, the Earth seems more than willing to subject itself under the influence of time. Even the sun or our very own galaxy dare not defy it.
Time can be likened to fire, in that it can be wild, unruly and dangerous. However, just like fire, time too, can be a most useful resource and several civilizations have taken to "paying for your time". Hardware designers are employed to fashion processors that can execute more instructions within the same amount of time than older versions. I suppose nothing could articulate it better than a quote from a dearly beloved professor, Evangel P. Quiwa, regarding the tradeoff between time and space in computer algorithms: "It is better to waste space than to waste time. Memory space can always be recovered but time wasted is time lost."
It is no trivial matter, then, to lie in wait for something. I am not one of those people who vehemently abhor the minutest of waiting and can't seem to be able to stand still for a minute or five. Neither am I one of those people who will intentionally arrive more than an hour late. I am but a simple person with a uniquely simple mind... Oh, scratch that; the last one was quite irrelevant, methinks.
In my life, I have met a lot of people whom the Fates, the Earth Mother and a certain ka-blam! somewhere in my hypothalamus have declared vital for me to meet. Setting a rendezvous is, almost always, a dreaded task for me. Far more often than not, I manage to end up being on time while the other parties I so eagerly anticipate meeting turn up an hour late, if at all.
Around year 1995, being caught in a traffic jam was a perfectly good excuse for being late. Not too many people had cars back then. Nowadays, it is perfectly ridiculous to say you were late because of the traffic. It has become a common fact of life here that much more people now own, not only cars, but also several other vehicles like SUV's, CRV's and a whole plethora of other terms I do not fancy taking an interest in. It, therefore, goes that the most pathetic excuse ever conceivable was, "Sorry I'm late. Traffic was a killer."
Still, however, in my not-so-humble opinion, perhaps that last line was more palatable to my ears than the one I'm usually getting: "Oh, I'm sorry. I overslept/just woke up." Disturbingly, it seemed to happen a lot more often in the most recent parts of my life that I couldn’t help but wonder, "Is this Karma? Is this devised by a cosmic judicial system to punish me for past misdeeds?" What does irk me is that it could very well be my penance; I must admit I have quite a lot of misdeeds when I was still young, impulsive and foolish.
I once met an individual who ranted to me how he waited for his mom for more than an hour. He was livid with rage that he refused to speak to her for a few days. More than anything, he relates, time is of great importance to me. It does come as a surprise then when, one day we were supposed to meet, he turned up just over two hours late.
There is also another person I am supposed to meet around dinnertime in a fairly uncharted area for me. I also ended up waiting two hours and a half in a dimly-lighted sidewalk, with nowhere to sit down on, rain beginning to pour by sheets and the constant danger that lurk in the unknown shadows.
Another person supposed to be present for my birthday had me waiting three-quarters of an hour before calling to say he couldn't make it. Quite angry, more with myself than with the other guy, I just heaved a sigh and went home alone.
Strangely enough, I noticed that all these preposterously impolite acts I have beheld were only committed by males. Never mind their sexuality because they're all varied on their tastes except that all of these people had penises. I might be wrong but as far as I can recall, never was there a female who made me wait for long hours, stood me up or, worst of all, made me wait before calling to inform me I was stood up.
In a lot of classic literature I have encountered, the books always seemed to imply that women, by protocol, arrive at a much later hour than men. "The Queen is never late," they say. "Everyone is simply too early," they say. "Don't point out how late a woman is." Even in the modern world, we see lines like: "Ginger, have you no idea about being fashionably late?" or "If you set a date, we'll be ready an hour late. We simply cannot rush doing our hair/nails/makeup."
What happened? Have the times changed so much that men, figuratively, donned women's skirts, held their feathered fans, wore their tiaras, bumped with their crinolines and, heaven forbid, spent half an hour painting their lips?!? (I must admit that even I use lip balm just so my lips wouldn't look too dry) Now that I muse it over, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.
With the rise of the term "metrosexual", almost every pedestrian male has turned into a creature whose vanity could very well rival that of a woman. Touching another man's hair is considered sacrilege. Oily faces are a no-no. Unstyled hair is a forbidden thing to wear. What's to say that men now are not too eager to be waited upon?
Does this mean that, with the change in the world today, men are less likely to perceive the value of time than the other half of the population? Is this the reason why, "I'll bide my time," sounds perfect coming from old hags or sassy bitches and sounds completely pathetic from a respectable hermit or an insensitive jerk? Is this why women are more adept at casting hexes and curses than us, biological males?
I should like to think not, mostly because I'd want to exempt myself from this generalization. However, it is severely disheartening and socially discouraging to set another rendezvous. Already, I have wasted at least 24 hours of my life on just waiting.
Do me a favor; meet me not more than 15 minutes late.
Lastly, if you are my destined soulmate, please, oh, please, don't make me wait my entire life. Else, I'd give up on you from time to time. Who knows? Only time can tell.