Time is a mysterious force that affects all of our lives, even if we can’t see it, touch it, or feel it. Sometimes it moves very fast–we have hardly dropped our credit card payment in the mail when another bill arrives!–while other times it moves slowly, like when we’re at High School Awards Night waiting for our kid to be recognized for Stage Crew and Audio-Visual Club and have to sit through the roll call for Pep Squad, Drama Society, et cetera. Got a question about time? Now’s the time to ask it!
Dear It’s About Time person:
I was making quesadillas in the microwave for my daughter Cindi last night because she is cramming for the written part of her driver’s test and can’t take a study break. I set “Time Cook” for one minute, then hit the “Add 30 Seconds” button. The cheese started bubbling out the sides at about one minute, fifteen seconds, so I opened up the microwave and pressed the “Clear” button. My daughter says “Mom, you are not supposed to do that. You take the food out, then start it again and let the clock run out, otherwise that extra time goes into a black hole and is lost forever.”
I asked her where she learned that and she said “In physics,” then started babbling about “current cosmological models” and how time is changed by the curvature of the universe and “space and time warp when spacetime curves.” That doesn’t make any sense to me.
It’s About Time person, I thought I was doing Cindi a favor letting her out of helping with dinner and setting the table and dishes afterwards. This is a girl you literally have to shake to get out of bed in the morning, so I am not inclined to let her lecture me about time management.
Any clarification you could provide would be appreciated.
Emily “Dottie” Swan, Rosemont, Illinois
Oh boy–the teenage years are tough, aren’t they?
In a technical sense your daughter is “sorta” correct, but not to worry. Next time you dust behind your microwave (I know, that could be years!) turn it around and look for a little sticker that says “UL,” which stands for “Underwriters Laboratory.” This is an objective trade association, not like the ones who lobby Congress to keep mohair subsidies, and they certify whether counter-top appliances leak molecules or time fragments.
If your microwave does not have such a sticker, take it to your town dump on “Hazardous Waste Saturday” and report it to the U.S. Government on your 2020 census form.
Dear It’s About Time person:
At spring break my snotty roommate from New York didn’t have anywhere to go so I invited him to my parents’ place in Hoxie, Kansas. It’s about 800 miles from Chicago, so you’re talking a twelve hour bus ride even if you drove straight through plus we had a two-hour layover in Kansas City. We were about three hours into the second leg of the trip when “Ian” (his real name, even the quotation marks) says “Boy, time sure passes slowly out here.”
By that point in the semester I had had just about enough of his “East Coast” condescension, so I got a little defensive. “It does not,” I said. “It passes at the exact same rate, you just have to keep your mind busy.” “With what?” Ian snorted. “Cows and grass?”
Well, we had the whole weekend with my folks ahead of us so I didn’t want to get into it with him. I am not a science major, so can you give me some snappy “come-backs” I can use if “Ian” starts to rib me about this subject in the future?
Danny J. Ormond, Class of 2020, University of Illinois-Chicago
I’m afraid I’m going to have to side with Ian on this one. As you approach the western border of Kansas the gravitational pull of the “Mountain” time zone sucks a lot of energy out of the prevailing “Central” time that you see on your watch or a bus station clock. Time begins to “hang heavy” on your hands and other body parts, and only a connection to civilization through a Sony Walkman or a personal entertainment device connected to the World Wide Web can break your personal sense of “torpor,” which is a good vocab word for you to know if you are applying to grad school.
Dear Mr./Ms It’s About Time:
I am trying to learn more about time as I never seem to have enough of it, what with deadlines at work, traffic jams and long lines at retail business establishments. Then when I finally do get time to myself for vacation–which I have to use all up, they won’t let us roll it over into next fiscal year at Modern Moosehead Indemnity where I work–I run into the same problem with everybody going to the beach or the mountains at the same time or a guy will fall asleep in the seat next to me on a sightseeing tour and ruin my good time.
A girl at work named “Crystal” has told me about time travel, she says it is the safe, effective way to maximize your limited time. Like on weekends, she will go to the Middle Ages, where she was a damsel who knights fought “jousts” over. That part I don’t buy, but I would like to learn more about this subject.
Thank you for your “time” (pun intended)–
Heather McClaskill, Brainerd, South Dakota
You should have a complete physical checkup before trying any new or strenuous activity, and I would recommend you read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” to get a sense of the risks involved in time travel. If you are a slow reader, check out the PBS video of the book and watch it on your DVD player, you’ll find it passes much faster.