Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A Tale of Two Clocks by Peter A. Black

By the time my parents and sisters arrived home the clock was still in pieces. I reckon this was the inception of my ‘fix-it career,’ when as a nine-year-old I was off school with flu’ (at home alone – yep, that was both common and allowed then).

The clock’s demise came once I’d begun to feel better and my eyes alighted on the wind-up alarm clock. A sudden brainwave: That clock needs fixing! It keeps losing time. . . Yeah, and the bell inside  sounds dull, as though something’s blocking it? And so, I started the job that ended in disaster.

A brand new wind-up Westclox “Baby Ben” alarm soon took its place. Fifty years later in 2004, my sisters entrusted it to me following our Mom’s death – and it still works!

I’d win no prize for best fixer-upper and handyman. Even so, I’ve tackled various fix-it tasks around the numerous homes my Beloved and I have shared over almost half a century. My attempts haven’t always worked out well, but good advice from experienced folk has rescued quite a few projects.

Recently I was at it again. We have a small glass-mounted Seth Thomas clock bearing an “In Appreciation” plaque inscribed to us; a gift from a former congregation. It always lost time but had no control for increasing its pace. We fed it quality batteries, yet the thing would stop after only a few days. Lately my Beloved suggested we scrap it.
Reluctant to do that, and curious, I decided to give the clock one more chance by opening it up. No harm done if I couldn’t make it work or get it back together; it was otherwise doomed, anyway. However, my layman’s eye couldn’t spot anything wrong with the innards; everything appeared pristine. I couldn’t even see a speck of dust inside. To be sure though, I air-blew then reassembled it.

My heart sank. Left on the bench was one small cylindrical pin, three millimetres long by about one millimetre wide. I’d no idea where in the clock that tiny piece belonged. With resignation I put batteries in and set the hands to the time. That clock has kept perfect time ever since and is still going – I just checked! Perhaps that piece had been an obstruction.
My boyhood inquisitiveness has never left me. A child’s inquisitiveness must have suitable outlets for learning and creativity to blossom. Of course, monitoring to ensure safety may be necessary, depending on the activity. Even so, it often seems that life randomly casts many of its best, if not risky, learning opportunities. Still, inquisitiveness can lead us into trouble, as our human progenitors found out; the rest is history.
Credit: Free Google Images

Humpty Dumpty was all head. He sat high, perched on the wall, but then he had his great fall. For him there was no recovery, for “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Pride is an obstruction. Wisdom tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19 NIV).

Now is the time.

The pre-Easter Lenten season offers a spiritual space and time to acknowledge our own prideful falls, our weakness and brokenness.
My hope and prayer is that you and I will experience more fully the forgiveness and healing of our hearts and minds, and the wholeness God has secured for us through our Lord Jesus’ sacrificial death and His blood shed for us on the cross.

Peter is an author, inspirational columnist and songwriter living in Southwestern Ontario. He enjoys singing and playing sacred music and praise songs – especially for his friends in a number of residential care facilities and in area congregations.
~ Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart
~ Parables from the Pond


Glynis said...

Oh dear, Peter. I have to admit I laughed out loud after you 'air-blew' the clock and then found a piece on the table! I didn't mean to, but your 'taking apart' things reminded me so much of Trevor, my son. He was notorious for that - especially audio/visual related. He had a lovely work table in his bedroom from when he was a wee lad complete with tv/camera/stereo/speaker parts and more! Guess what he ended up doing - he went to school and became an audio engineer! Curious minds, for sure. But what a wonderful gift inquisitiveness is if, like you imply, is properly channeled! Pride surely does go before a fall! Good lesson. (And I remember the Baby Ben clocks. Dad and Mum had one for many years!)

Peter Black said...

Heh! Heh! Glynis, your Trevor actually becoming an audio engineer sounds like a good fit for him, following through from his boyhood fascination for electronics. My lifelong musical interest led me into the music instrument industry and I became a piano tuner-technician; that was quite a while before my pastoral years.
Great that your parents had one of those Baby Bens. Westclox (an American company) closed its long-established factory in Dumbarton, Scotland, a few years back. I met an English fellow in Glasgow (in the early 1960s) who had a managerial role in that plant. Memories! ~~+~~

Kevin said...

Peter, I received 0 for craftsmanship when I did a gifts assessment. Making or fixing things is not one of my strengths. When I'm working as a rehabilitation counsellor in corrections at a halfway house the Assistant Director makes the mistake of asking me to change a typewriter ribbon. Yes, it was a long time ago. I try to tell her that's not a good idea. Doing these manual tasks is not one of my strengths. She insists it's easy to do. She shows me how to do it. Then, she puts the old ribbon back in the typewriter. She says, "Kevin, now you do it." She heads back to her office.

I take the old ribbon out. I say to myself, Well, that's easy enough to do. Then, I take the new ribbon out of its box. I begin to put the ribbon in the typewriter. Oops! It starts to unravel. I try so hard to put it back together. It unwinds more. I think, "Now, I have a problem."

I go to the Assistant Director's office. With exasperation and frustration in my voice I say, "Colleen, I need your help. The new typewriter ribbon is all unwound." Colleen says, "It can't be that bad. I'll come and help you.

Colleen sees the typewriter ribbon. She gives a huge sigh. I say to her, "Well, I did try my best." Colleen gets a new ribbon and puts it in the typewriter.

I'm never asked to change a typewriter ribbon in all the four years I work there.

Perhaps, if I had taken my gifts assessment before I started working there The Case of the Unraveling Typewriter ribbon could have been avoided.

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Peter, when you shared your story about the broken clock and it still in pieces, I remembered one of my younger sisters (no names to protect the guilty) taking apart our alarm clock and who had no idea how to put it back together again. Alas Dad's expertise did not extend to clock repairs and so my parents had to get us a new alarm clock to waken us in time for school. My sister went into nursing, not mechanics. ;) Thanks for sharing your light-hearted story.

Peter Black said...

Kevin, during my typewriter years I changed many a ribbon, usually quite successfully, but I also managed to get lots of black ink over my fingers, too! I still miss my old Underwood Five.

Carolyn, what is it about kids and alarm clocks - at least in the days of the wind-up ones - that some of us were drawn to attempt to 'improve' their operation? As I suggested, curiosity / inquisitiveness.
Hmm, your sister, eh? Your story shows that it's not just a boy thing. ;)~+~~

Popular Posts