My Most Important Clock: A Cautionary Tale

Something kind of sad recently occurred to me. As you might be aware, I like watches. I wear a watch from the moment I wake up (ok, I technically put one on after I shower) to right before I go to sleep. I look at it regularly throughout the day. But, my watch isn’t the most important clock in my life. No, there is a clock that is intimately part of my daily rituals, I just didn’t know it.

Now, I wasn’t looking for what the most important clock in my life was, this discovery was an accident. Like when a wall clock in your apartment dies, you notice it then. It’s annoying, right? Or after daylight savings time, when your microwave is an hour off. But, how long does it take you to change that? Just looking around my apartment right now, my largest wall clock, a Seth Thomas from the late 1800s, isn’t even running. It never is. It can, but it needs some major service, so I keep it more as decor. It really ties the room together.

A 30-day School Clock by Seth Thomas

So, what happened was one day I was going through the system preferences on a relatively new MacBook Air, looking for the dock settings. The screen being on the smaller side, I decided I wanted it to auto-hide. Upon entering this menu, I saw a check box I had never seen before. “Automatically hide and show the menu bar.” Has this always been there or is this a new feature? The idea was immediately appealing. Without a menu bar on top, and a dock on the bottom, my screen real estate would really open up. I checked the box, contently, closed the window, and watched with amazement as the menu bar receded into the top of the screen.

Be careful what you click for

It was wonderful, for a little while. The screen felt noticeably larger. My artboards in Illustrator were edge-to-edge. It was liberating. But then, I found myself glancing to the top right corner of the screen, only to be met with a moment of confusion. Why did my eyes flick to this one small span of pixels? What was I looking for? This wasn’t a conscious motion, it was a reaction. Something Pavlovian.

Well, that’s where there usually is a clock. A mere couple of millimeters in height, these four white digits are actually smaller than what is likely on my wrist. Wrists, actually, as I also wear a health tracker on my wrist that displays the time (please note that despite its ability to tell the time, I do not refer to it as a watch). But, to see this clock, and thus know my position in the day, anchoring me to our reality of hours, minutes, and seconds, all it takes is a micromotion of my eyes. My arms need not move, my head can stay in position, my legs… Well, I don’t typically use my l legs when looking at my watch, but you get the gist.

not me, but a portrayal of how I felt

That’s right, the most important clock in my life is the little time indicator in the top right corner of my screen. Always there, always on, always crystal clear, it lets me know when I’m late for a meeting, or if it’s finally an appropriate time to eat lunch. Without it, I legitimately felt on edge. It was a disturbance to something my body, on a fundamental level, had gotten used to. Having to move the mouse all the way to the top of the screen, like crossing a desert in mid-day, was a journey too far.

So, I went back into the system preferences, back to that mysterious checkbox I had never noticed before – a Pandora’s checkbox, if you will – and turned it off. Give me back my clock. Give me back my ability to see the time at a glance, I thought. Once back, a blanket of calm came over me. It was back, my most important clock.

Consider this a cautionary tale, a warning to those of you out there who arbitrarily change features on your computer or other time-displaying devices that you could, accidentally, dislodge yourself from time as we know it, or, more accurately, find yourself moderately irritated. Have you had similar experiences? How do you really tell the time during the day? Is it always with your watch, or do you sneak a look at a clock somewhere? Is your phone always out in front of you? Do you just look for the sun out of a window? We want to know what your most important clock is, so tell us in the comments!

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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