Friday, November 18, 2005


Existential Friday: Counting down

A week ago, in Washington, DC: I'm waiting to cross the street, the traffic wooshes past me, and the red-handed "don't walk" sign emphasizes my need to wait.

Off to my right, at a ninety degree angle, the white "walk man" signals that it's safe for pedestrians going perpendicular to my route to cross the street.


I notice, and become mesmerized by, the digital timer counting down the seconds until the "walk" signal will change to "don't walk."


I can accept that this timer may be a valuable safety feature for the elderly and disabled, who can use it to decide whether they have time to make it across the street. Yet I find it strangely disturbing.

The countdown at right angles to me is essentially telling me how much longer I have to wait until the light will change in my favor and I can cross. It makes me conscious, in a way I wouldn't have been if I was waiting in ignorance or uncertainty, of the passage of time. Seconds of my life, adding up to minutes, are draining away merely waiting for this damned traffic to stop so I can cross the street. There's 45 seconds of my life I'll never get back. My life, spilling out, while I'm just waiting for traffic.

I don't want to think of my time counting down that way.

It starts the day you're born.
[On a practical note -- the light countdown is a lot more palatable and useful than a life-o-meter, telling you how many seconds 'til the final nail pounds into your box.]
That chipper enough for you, pal?
Dear fellow,

Just cross the street.
Nina, the counter to which you referred is known as the "Death Clock". Naturally, someone's put a website about it: and of course, Professor Farnsworth invented one on Futurama
Thanks Wendy. Now I know that I will expire on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2059. Only 54 years left . . . wait . . . 54 years is a long time. I'll be 95 years old when I die?! That's too old. I'll be frail, sickly, demented, and all alone. This makes me so depressed.

At least I'll still have tenure.
I'm impressed that your camera takes so many pictures in such a short span of time. Mine seizes up for processing after one or two, and requires a minute to recover. Just think of all the time I've wasted waiting for the camera to being functioning again! Not to mention all the good photos I've missed.
Yep, the countdown, blessing for those of us driving and going insane waiting for the light to change...
Oh, thanks so much, Wendy! I now know that I have 43 years of life left (putting my death at 95)! I wish I had known that earlier, when I made the decision to forgo long-term-care insurance on the theory that, being Polish, I could never ever live beyond 60.
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