x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bond's watch didn't tell him the time he had left

My challenge for the new year is to figure out how long my Sunday afternoon plans will take

In the early 1970s, when I was a young boy, I went to the cinema - and yes, I know that I'm dating myself, but one of my resolutions for the new year is to stop worrying about stuff like that - and I saw the James Bond film Live and Let Die.

For those of you who are slightly younger than 47-years-old, there have been several actors who have played Ian Fleming's iconic British agent, James Bond. I happen to have come of age during the Roger Moore era.

(And for those of you who are a lot younger than forty-seven, a cinema was a place where people used to gather to watch movies together - perfect strangers, really - on a screen slightly smaller than the screen most folks have now on their wall.)

I don't remember much about the plot of the film - the plot, in a Bond film, is never the chief ingredient - but I do remember the jolt of astonished awe I felt when early in the picture James Bond looks at his wrist and checks the time.

He was using a digital watch, which was unknown - at least to me - before that moment. It was sleek and totally dark, until Bond pushed a button and then - wow! It lit up with the time! Digitally! So, so cool.

All I wanted at that moment was a watch like that. If I had a digital watch, I thought with the logic only a seven-year-old boy would use, I will never want anything else again. I'll be done. I'll be happy for the rest of my life with the tennis shoes I'm wearing and my digital watch.

I was a persistent young man. On my next birthday, I did indeed get one of those cool digital watches.

And I don't think I've ever recovered from it. Because a digital watch is a nearly useless piece of technology. It tells me what time it is right now. But I don't really need to know what time it is right now. No one, actually, needs to know what time it is right now.

What we need to know is, how much time do we have left?

And that's a more physical and more tactile concept, which is why the analogue face of an ordinary clock is a lot more useful. In my head, the dial segments on an analogue watch are like little pizza slices or pie wedges - they're actual pieces of time. I don't know what it means to say that it's 7.37 and I have 23 minutes left. I do know what it means to say the big hand is past the downtown line and I have a pizza slice and a bit to go.

My problem is that I never really developed the skills - thanks, I think, to Live and Let Die and Roger Moore's watch - of successfully estimating how much time certain things are going to take. And that means my To Do lists are usually a bizarre jumble of tiny errands and giant tasks all theoretically to be accomplished on the same day, sort of like: "To Do Sunday: get laundry, sign tax stuff, begin novel, get outdoor light bulbs, do entire script rewrite, lose 10 kilos."

How is that all supposed to happen on Sunday?

Spatial awareness, researchers tell us, is something that comes in infancy. You suddenly get the ability to visually estimate what thing fits into another thing and what thing just won't. We've all seen babies take a block that's too big and try to fit it into the wrong shape on that toy that every baby has — you know, the one that's a house with the shapes cut out of it? - and then at a certain point, a light goes off in the baby's head and he or she figures it out and that toy is done for.

Spatial awareness I've got. What I need, though, is time awareness. I have a highly fantastical - some might say imbalanced - idea of how much I can really accomplish on a Sunday afternoon, especially when the trend line for Sunday afternoons has been, for as long as I can remember, to walk the dog, read and nap.

But I still shove a lot of stuff into that day segment, like a little baby trying to put the triangle block into the circle block for an hour and a half and then putting the triangle block in its mouth for the next hour and a half. Only, unlike the baby, I never seem to have that moment of insight.

And that, I have decided, is the biggest failing I'd like to address in the new year. Forget about getting realistic and carefree about my age. Instead, I'd like to get better at estimating how long things are really going to take, get more realistic about what's really going to happen on Sunday afternoons. That's my resolution for 2013: to get some outdoor light bulbs, write my novel, do a script rewrite, lose 10 kilos, and get better at my time awareness. I can do all of that in a year, right?

Wish me luck.

 

Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood

On Twitter: @rcbl