Mark Amory | 9 July 2012
What time is it?
Seriously, I'm asking the question - What time is it where you are right now?
I'm asking this question because I'm interested in what device you used to tell the time...
During my long hours away from home spent travelling, or sitting in hotel bars I do a lot of people watching. I find people entertaining - forget "reality TV" - It don't get realer than real life!
I enjoy watching the actions people go through when engaging in group discussions / activities - who is the alpha dog? which couple are making up after an argument? which couple are about to have an argument? Stuff like that.
Well, it was during one of my people watching sessions on the London underground the other week that caused me to ask you for the time.
Sat on the tube, I noticed the man opposite check his watch but then immediately got his iPhone out and checked the time on there also. Nothing too odd about that, perhaps he was checking if either one was wrong. But the thing is, he didn't do this once, in the five stops we were travelling companions, he repeated this action no fewer than six times - check watch, check iPhone - now that's slightly odd to me. Now, those Apple detractors will say that's the normal actions for an Apple fanboi, but I'm not opening THAT can of worns here - I'll save that for Facebook.
Now, there could be many reasons for this behaviour - maybe he was nervous about being late for a meeting or interview or date, maybe he didn't trust his watch, maybe he had an OCD - who knows? but it got me thinking "Is he the only one who uses his phone to tell the time?", and THAT thought embarked me on a little quest to see how many people either look at their watch, phone, or both when telling the time.
Over the last few weeks, I have taken to watching (no pun intended) people a little more closely. There seems to be a Pavlovian reaction to whenever time is mentioned as no sooner has the time been announced, people instinctively check the time - I bet you've just looked at the time again even though you checked it about 30 seconds ago at the top of this blog!
As an example, I was near Big Ben the other morning as it struck 09:00. Looking round, I counted at least 15 people, whilst the chimes were counting off the hours, checking their phones. OK, some may have been updating Facebook, or checking a txt, but I bet a fair few were checking the time - Even though one of the worlds most iconic clocks was telling them what time is was.
As another example, at Kings Cross station, the 17:03 train was announced as boarding on platform 6 - again, I counted at least six people check their phones, yet I didn't notice anyone checking a watch. In fairness, they probably couldn't believe it was actually on time - I know I couldn't believe it!
To push this exercise a little more, I have taken to removing my watch and asking random strangers for the time - just to see how many use a watch, or phone. So far, out of 37 people queried, 6 used a watch for the answer, 31 used a phone, but most interestingly, of those 31 people, I noticed 26 of them actually had a wrist watch on, but still reached for the phone....
So, is the wrist watch destined to be forgotten in the history of time? Are we simply so accustomed to using the phone for so many other things - updates, messages, weather, location, etc. that it's simply a habit to use it for the time also?
Personally, I like my watch, it was a present from my father, and there is a lot of symbolism in that - the gift of time. In our modern society, we never seem to have enough time - time for the kids, time with a loved one, time to stop and smell the flowers.
Maybe, that's why my fellow tube traveller checked his watch/phone combo so often - maybe he couldn't believe how little time he had for whatever he was doing - who knows?
So, take time out, spend time away from the desk, come and spend some time at QA learining how to use time more effectively because ultimately, time is something we all run out of eventually so make the most of the time you have.
BTW - Those of you sat at a PC reading this - I bet you looked at the clock on there when I asked the time, even though you probably have wrist watch on as well :o)