| Theme Section: Time Will Tell |

Plus Seven Minutes

The clock is a constant in a shifting world. Six women share time-related tales

Plus Seven Minutes

Chasi Shochet

The clocks in our house were always wrong. My parents are sticklers for time. We showed up to l’chayims long before the chassan and kallah, and would stand outside the hairdresser’s shop before the secretaries were there to open the gates. To be that on time, you actually need to be early. And in order to be early, the clocks need to be wrong.

Every glowing time-teller in our house was set at least seven minutes fast. “You have no excuses for being late to school,” my mother would say when all six of us barreled through the kitchen at once.

She’s right — the clocks were wrong, so even if I were three minutes late, I’d still be two minutes early. But that calculation doesn’t account for the time it takes to calculate the actual time. How much longer did I have until I’d be late for school?

If the clock says 8:13, what time is it really? What’s 13 minus 7… what’s 13 minus 7, my tired brain would wonder.  By the time I gave up on the math, three more minutes had passed.

“Shmuli! What’s thirteen minus seven?” I would shout to my brother across the kitchen.

“You’re asking me?” He’d grab a yogurt from the fridge and nab an apple from the fruit basket on his way out.

With the years, we got better at our minus-seven tables. If the home clock said 8:20, it meant I still had 13 minutes to brush my teeth, grab a packet of oatmeal, and run to pick up my neighbor on the way to school. If it said 8:25, it meant I should skip the neighbor, but still do the teeth and oatmeal thing.

The clocks in our house did two things: force me to improve my math, and foster a deep-rooted distrust of anything that’s supposed to tell the time. If the meter ends at 12:30 and it’s 12:24, I still have at least five minutes to go — which is what I tell myself until I walk out of the store and find a stern cop standing over my windshield with an orange ticket.

These days, I don’t accuse any clocks of lying — I just ignore them. I can’t tell you if the clocks in my parents’ house tell the right time or not because I haven’t looked at one in at least a decade.

I trust only the watch on my hand, which is corroborated with the satellite clock in my parents’ house that my mother tried to change but then realized she couldn’t. And I trust my own version of timing, where the math works backward. Add at least 30 minutes to any invitation. An event called for 8:30 p.m. really starts at 9:00 p.m., and the best time to show up is late — with another seven minutes tacked on for good measure.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 785)

Oops! We could not locate your form.