Monday, October 12, 2009

The Clock Seems to Know I'm Looking

I've always had a mild fascination for strange time coincidences. There was a time back in high school when it seemed like at least once a week, sometime more, I'd look up randomly at a clock or my watch and the time would read, 12:34. Not that any particular minute in any given day is more significant than any other, but 12:34 only comes around twice, for two minutes out of the 1,440 in a day. At that rate, I should only see 12:34 when I randomly look at a clock 1.3 percent of the time. I was seeing it at a far higher rate.

Or was I? It could be that I assigned significance the the 12:34 viewing event and remembered it, forgetting every other time I glanced up, even absentmindedly, and saw some other time on the clock. In a given week I must glance at a clock or my watch at least 100 times. If one of those times lands me at 12:34, I'm safely inside the 1.3 percent window.

Or maybe I was conscious, however deeply, of the time when I looked. Since high school I almost never see 12:34 anymore, and it's been a long time. I think my mind, for one reason or another was looking for that time then. I had a running narrative which said, "I catch 12:34 on clocks all the time lately", and so, unconsciously I was looking for it. We have an internal clock which has been demonstrated to keep pretty accurate time. On some level I was probably aware of the fact that 12:34 was imminent, and, in an effort to keep my experience of reality in line with my expectations, by brain had me look up at just the right time often enough to render my narrative true.

But what prompted this entry if I don't catch 12:34 anymore? I was sitting here at the computer, waiting for inspiration when I noticed that my old, green Swingline stapler has the number 747 imprinted into the metal on it's front. I thought it was funny, the parallel of tiny metal stapler to huge metal airplane when I looked up at the clock on the computer. It read 7:47.

Sounds like the beginning of a bad Jim Carrey movie.

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