A Final Thought: My How Time Flies


By Mitch Allen

Everyone I know is saying the same thing: “How can it be November already?” I sure feel that way. It’s almost Thanksgiving and I just finished cleaning up the mess from my Fourth of July party. And somehow I go to bed on Monday night and wake up Thursday morning.

It’s easy enough to say time passes faster as we age, but that can’t be it. That would suggest a linear increase. What I’m feeling is an exponential increase.

Something’s up.

It could be someone has simply sped up the clocks—easy enough to do now that all our electronic devices are synced to the Atomic Clock. If some super villain bent on world domination messed with that single clock, all others would instantly follow suit.

But that wouldn’t change the physical world. Soon enough the sun would set at 11 o’clock in the morning and we’d have snow in July.

No, it’s not just the clocks. The earth’s rotation must be going faster, too, along with our orbit around the sun. That’s likely, given physicists have known for years that the universe is expanding at an expanding rate, meaning with each passing minute we are hurtling faster and faster through the universe. That invariably affects time.

I’m sure if Einstein were alive today he could explain it. Rouse him from his grave and he’d sit up, rub his eyes, look around, then ask the same question we’re all asking: “What is TikTok?”

I’d like to suggest a different reason for the sudden increase in the speed of time, one related more to psychology than to physics. I call it The Theory of Anticipation, which states that time goes faster when we are involved in our routines, and slower when we are involved in new experiences.

For example, when you’re taking a long road trip to a destination you’ve never been to before, it seems to take forever to get there compared to the return trip. That’s because on the return trip, we’ve seen it all before, but on the initial drive everything is new. We don’t know what’s around each bend in the road, let alone what our destination holds for us. In other words, we are in a state of constant anticipation.

So, if you want to slow down time, simply step out of your routine. I’m certain if you try shopping at a new grocery store instead of the one where you already know where everything is, you’ll come away saying, “Wow, that took forever.”

And if you and a friend go for long hike on a new trail in the MetroParks instead of your usual one, at the end of the journey you’ll say, “Man, I didn’t think we’d ever get back to the car.”

As we age, especially during a pandemic, it becomes easier to get stuck in a routine. We’ve seen it all before, and any new experiences can create unwanted anxiety. We find ourselves shopping at the same stores, eating at the same restaurants, talking to the same people, and Heaven forbid if we aren’t plopped on the sofa at 7:30 p.m. in time to watch Jeopardy! The only remaining anticipation in our lives is wondering who the Jeopardy! host is going to be this time.

I can’t imagine what life is like for octogenarians. The clock hands must be turning so fast the breeze tickles their ear hair. This may explain why my 85-year-old father-in-law is obsessed with postal delivery: “Has the mail come yet? Has the mail cone yet?” To a young person, the mail arrives once a day. But to a senior, time is going so fast the mail comes continuously, like those letters from Hogwarts flying through the mail slot of Harry’ Potter’s uncle’s front door. You really have to stay on top of it.

Finally, I recently had the revelation that my grandsons see hippies in the same way I see flappers. To a 10-year-old today, hippies lived 50 years ago, and to my 10-year-old self in 1972, flappers lived 50 years ago. How can this be? The 1920s were the “olden days” when everyone lived in black and white, listened to songs like “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Ol’ Man River,” and used strange idioms like, “the bee’s knees” and “the cat’s pajamas.” Whereas the 1970s were just the other day, when kids listened to rock ’n’ roll and watched Scooby Doo, the same things my grandsons do today.

Ooo, gotta go. The mail is here.


Categories: Smart Living