I live in a different time zone than everybody else — right now it is 8:49 a.m., Eastern time, 5:49 on the West Coast and 12:27 on Mars — so I was a little late in finding out that my granddaughter Chloe, who is 3, recently got a watch.
I have had one watch in my life. It was given to me as a college graduation gift by my parents, who liked to remind me that I was born more than three weeks past my due date and hadn’t been on time for anything since. The watch was one of those digital numbers that didn’t have two hands, which required me to use two hands to tell the time. It was a pain in the wrist.
Not long after my wife, Sue, and I were married, our apartment was burglarized. Her watch was stolen. Mine was left behind. It wasn’t even good enough for thieves.
At the time (4:32 p.m.), I resolved never to wear a watch again. And I haven’t. I am in a deadline business, but I don’t care what time it is. If I need to know, I’ll look at the clock on the wall. If I don’t see a wall, I know I’m outside and that it’s time (midnight) to come in.
Now Chloe, who was born a week early, has a watch. It was given to her by her parents, though not as a college graduation gift because even kids these days don’t grow up that fast.
At least it’s not digital. It has a purple band with pink and white flowers and a face with two hands, which means Chloe doesn’t need two hands to tell the time.
What she does need is somebody to teach her how.
That, against all odds, is where I come in.
Whenever Chloe visits, she wants me to read her favorite literary masterpiece, “Tick and Tock’s Clock Book.” Subtitled “Tell the Time With the Tiger Twins!,” it’s the compelling if somewhat repetitive tale of two feline brothers who are baffled by time, which makes them no better than me. Of course, I never tell that to Chloe. Instead, I begin reading:
“Brrringg! The alarm clock rang so loudly it made Tick and Tock jump out of bed.
“ ‘What time is it?!’ said Tock.
“Tick went to look at the clock.
“ ‘Um … the big hand … Not sure,’ he said. What time did the clock say?”
“What time did the clock say, Poppie?” Chloe asked recently during a particularly dramatic reading.
“It didn’t say anything,” I replied. “Clocks can’t talk.”
Chloe giggled and said, “Silly Poppie!”
According to the drawing on the page, it was 8 a.m., even though it was 3:15 p.m. in my house, so I helped Chloe move the plastic hands — the big one to the 12, the little one to the 8 — on the clock in the upper right corner of the book.
The rest of the story follows the messy Tiger Twins through their day, during which they can’t figure out what time they are supposed to leave for school (8:30), finish their painting project (10:15), have lunch (12:30), go home (3:30) and have dinner (4:45).
But the best is saved for last. That’s when Tick and Tock’s mother, who has just cleaned up one of their many messes, announces, “There, it’s all tidy now. Look, it’s 8 o’clock, time for bed.”
But the clock on the wall says otherwise.
“Tick and Tock looked at the clock and said, ‘No, it’s not! It’s 7 o’clock. We have another hour to play, hooray!’ ”
In one of the greatest endings in all of literature, the Tiger Twins’ mother can’t tell the time.
“Maybe,” I said to Chloe as I closed the book, “Tick and Tock should buy her a watch.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.