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The Idle American
"Clockwork for the New Year...
Wednesday, January 7, 2009 • Posted January 7, 2009

The old clock was leaning a little, dispirited at the very least. As the new year approached, chiming was low on her priority list. Her thoughts, whirlwinds of anxieties carried over from a pock-marked 2008, included the possibility of allowing 2009 to tiptoe in without bell-ringing accompaniment. Muddled of mind, she even wondered if her pendulum might be on its last “pendul.”

Beads of sweat broke out on her face. She winced at the thought of “tick” (or maybe “tock”) fever. Worse than that, she was afraid that something could be seriously wrong with her ticker. Horrors were magnified by memories of too many mice running up and down for too many years.

Fearing the worst, she went to see the clock doctor….

  • * * * *

She was an emotional mess, near unto “unsprung” status. The clock confessed that the thought of ticking every single second in the new year seemed daunting. “It’s tough duty, doctor,” she blubbered. “Last year, I ticked 60 times every minute, 3,600 times every hour and 86,400 times every 24 hours.” She grew animated as her computations continued. “That’s 584,800 ticks a week, 2,592,000 ticks a month and 31,114,000 ticks for the year.”

He asked her how she had managed in previous years. Her simple answer: “One tick at a time.”

Smiling, the clock doctor’s response made her feel all better. “It’s a good approach for 2009 as well, just one tick at a time.” It would likely have been best if he had stopped with that solid advice. But the physician was on a roll….

  • * * * *

The doctor, also a clock collector, asked her if others sometimes call her “a grandfather’s clock.”

“All the time,” she answered.

He explained that at 5’10", she is two inches shy of minimum height for a grandfather’s clock. Further, if she were a foot shorter, she’d be a granddaughter’s clock….

  • * * * *

The clock was ready to throw up her hands, rattled at the prospect of a gender identity crisis. She felt deluged by information overload. Learning that she technically is a grandmother’s clock really “ticked” her off.

“Actually, these timepieces date back to 1670,” the doctor said. “At the time, they were called ‘longcase clocks.’ Free-standing and weight-driven, they ranged from two to eight feet in height.”

He said that the well-known song written in 1876, My Grandfather’s Clock, is responsible for all these floor model timepieces being tagged with the “grandfather” moniker….

  • * * * *

He burst into song, and the “patient” felt as if her last nerve were about to be stepped on. The doctor “favored” her with all four verses, with the chorus ‘tween each.

When he finished, he mentioned that the late Allan Sherman made the world giggle with his parody of the song. She wasn’t surprised that he belted out Sherman’s lyrics for the old tune.

My grandfather’s clock was the best ever made,

By the Timex Company.

Just like the clock John Cam’ron Swayze displayed

Last night on the old TV.

Oh it works underwater so perfectly

And it still has a ticking sound,

Which my grandfather tried only this afternoon,

And that’s how the old man drowned!…

  • * * * *

He rambled on about the story that inspired My Grandfather’s Clock. It seems that two brothers in England operated a hotel renowned for its handsome longcase clock—the lobby’s centerpiece. As the story goes, when one of the brothers died, the clock went haywire. It slowed with each winding, never again to show the correct time. When the other brother died years later—at age 90, the song claims—the clock stopped on the same day, never to go again.

So much for background.

“In my opinion, the probability that the clock was bought on the same morn the guy was born and ticked its final tock on the same day he checked out is so much poppycock,” the doctor said. “And spare me the grief about it being too tall for the shelf. Floor model clocks aren’t supposed to sit on the shelf.”…

  • * * * *

The “patient,” her patience ended, burst out of the office, fibbing that she needed to feed her parking meter. She yelled back at him that she’d try hard to face the new year one tick at a time.

This epistle is about done, but there’s a final yarn involving timepieces to usher in the new year. It seems that two neighbors decided to buy dogs. One was a spendthrift, the other, frugal. Mr. Moneybags bought an expensive, registered animal with an impressive pedigree. He makes frequent trips to the vet and feeds the pet expensive food. The other got his mutt at the pound. It’s never sick, and eats table scraps.

Their names? The one with $$$$ invested is called “Rolex;” the other, “Timex.”

Happy New Year. In 2009, may your “dog days” be minimal, devoid of jokes about canines named for timepieces….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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