In his excellent essay “The Telephone,” (a Best American Essay selection of 1998) the Lebanese-American writer Anwar Accawi recalls that in the rural Lebanese village of his youth, no one …
In his excellent essay “The Telephone,” (a Best American Essay selection of 1998) the Lebanese-American writer Anwar Accawi recalls that in the rural Lebanese village of his youth, no one particularly kept track of the passage of time. Milestones weren’t recorded with a conventional date, but rather by their proximity to a major event. As an example, Accawi relates asking his grandmother when Teta Im Kalil, the oldest woman in the village, was born.
“I’ve been told that Teta was born shortly after the big snow that caused the roof on the mayor’s house to cave in,” she replied.
“When was that,” he asked.
“Oh about the time we had the big earthquake that cracked the wall in the east room.”
Like the pre-technological days of Accawi’s Lebanese village, the passage of time during these past seven months have been impossible to gauge. The events of March, when we first began to close down schools, stores and offices feels like it could have been two years ago. At the same time, the fact that this current issue of the Local is coming out on October 1, 2020 is shocking. How can it be October already? Where did seven months go?
And I’m not alone. People everywhere have reported difficulty keeping track of the days of the week. Scientists tell us that many of the novel experiences that would punctuate our days, from major milestones like birthdays and holidays to going out to restaurants or getting together with work friends, have gone and left our senses with a void for tracking time.
For those of us working at home, the absence of commuting, the lack of any discernible difference between the weekday and the weekend and kids who are at home all the time, have done a number on our natural time tracking capabilities. We’re stuck in a limbo of repetition that’s not unlike living on a space station.
With the cautious resumption of pre-Covid life resuming, there has been a bit of the return-to-normal feeling that comes with a weekly routine that begins to fill up with regular activities. I’m coaching my son’s travel soccer team which has put at least three events on my calendar every week. I attended a church service on Sunday. The first since March. The rhythm returns. Time begins to make sense.
There’s also a big election coming up that has added a host of significant dates to the calendar over the next month – from registration deadlines to debate nights to the official day on Tuesday, Nov. 3. There’s a focus to the fall we didn’t have in the summer.
I hope, however, that a second wave or rebound of this pandemic are not as dire as the most pessimistic predictions. Just as life again begins to make sense, the realization that it could just as easily return to a time with no time is a dark future I’d rather not consider.
For those of us fortunate enough to have some semblance of a returning routine, we should enjoy them while we can.