Time on My Mind

Posted on February 25, 2013



It is commonly acknowledged that an hour spent in the dentist’s chair is not equal to an hour spent watching football.  An hour spent on the phone with technical support is not equal to an hour spent at a great sale where everything fits you perfectly and you have mysteriously gone down two sizes (Forget that last analogy. No human begin has ever actually survived an hour with any technical support person).  But an hour spent in the dentist’s chair will still go more quickly than an hour spent crawling through a dark sewage-infested tunnel where rats are running all over the place and Mariah Carey is being piped in, really loud.

In other words, the awareness of the passage of time is entirely subjective. It is a combination of who we are, what we are doing, and whether we are conscious, semi-conscious or wish we were unconscious.   Many factors screw around with our perception, and the worst of it is age.

Most of us have noticed that time begins to pass more quickly as we age.  We swear we just had our annual eye exam in spite of the doctor telling us it has been three years.  Our weekly pill boxes have to be refilled every three days. We are still mentally preparing for the millennium.

There are benefits, of course, but we don’t know any.  Mostly, we keep getting charged for late library books, accumulate furry and/or slimy food in the refrigerator, and wear clothes that went out of style during the Carter administration. We just can’t ever seem to catch up.

So, what’s going on?  Well, it turns out that like everything else on the planet except the behavior of an ex-spouse, there is a logical explanation. Except in this case there are lots of logical explanations, with no actual conclusions.

One theory is that increased dopamine, the main neurotransmitter involved in time processing, tends to tend to speed up our perception of time. Certain drugs, like cocaine, increase dopamine, as well. So we Boomers can think of ourselves the same way as cocaine users, without any of the fun.

One research study has found that “people in their 20s are pretty accurate at guessing an interval of 3 minutes, but people in their 60s systematically overestimate it, suggesting time is passing about 20% more quickly for them.”  This blogger has read the previous quote about five times and invites any reader with a functioning brain to interpret it for her, while she move on.

A third theory blames our metabolism. The human perception of “time” is governed by our rate of metabolism.  When human metabolism is fast, as in the case of a child, time runs slow. When metabolic rate is relatively slow, as in the case of an adult, time runs relatively faster.  Great.  Low metabolism equals both gaining pounds and losing time. 

And finally, it is pointed out that the older we get, the greater percentage of our daily activity consists of things we have already experienced. The brain assumes a “been there, done that” mode and takes a lot of naps, while we blissfully go about our business. Hence, the perception that time is accelerating, mainly because we haven’t really been conscious.

So, what can we do to slow down time?  Here are the top ten suggestions:

1. Clean out your drawers (the ones in the bureau or kitchen, not in your pants)
2. Listen to someone read their newly written blog post (This item was suggested by Now Husband, and will result in his not seeing his wife’s drawers for some time)
3. Try on Spanx
4.  Leave home without peeing first, get on the highway and drive for several hundred miles without stopping
5. Seat yourself on a plane next to a screaming toddler and you are going cross-country and the only food choices are water with ice or without
6. Floss or weed (For maximum impact, do them simultaneously)
7. Get to the movie theater early, don’t buy popcorn, and sit through the announcements, requests, reprimands, advertising, cartoons, TV show promos and coming attractions. If someone near you is talking on their cell phone while this is going on, even better
8. Have a dinner party.  Invite the most boring people you know.
9. Watch “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.”
10. Go on an internet date (This item was suggested by Susan of Sex and the Sixty-Year-Old fame, who knows of what she speaks and has now set the record for Shortest Date in History–six sentences)