Friday, May 10, 2013

How to know when it's time to go home

Any country music fans out there?   Gretchen Wilson has a song called "You don't have to go home".  The song starts out by saying that the bar lights are flicking, indicating last call, and then goes on to say that 'you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here'.    It's a fun little song, I like it.  And for some reason, it always makes me think of that thing about serving guests hot meals, except that if they've overstayed their welcome and it's time for them to leave but they're still lingering, then you serve them cold shoulder.

So depending on whether you're in a bar, or someone's house, you know that it's time to leave because either the lights are being flicked off and on, or the food has become cold and unappetizing.
(by the way, I tried to find an unappetizing picture to put here, but I guess I'm hungry, because all the pictures looked good to me.)

But what about the rest of the time?  How do you know when it's time to leave?  There's the old saying that fish and houseguests start to smell after three days... but there are certainly times when it would be ok to stay longer than three days...  as well as times when a three-day-stay would be far too long.

In ancient times, time-telling was done by sundial.  Sundials were surprisingly accurate, but turned into paperweights, once the sun went down.  There were waterclocks, but they tended to be pretty big.. and not terribly precise.  But then, in the late 1200s, mechanical clocks came into use.  Accuracy was an issue, but over time, accuracy improved, and of course these days, clocks -- mostly digital -- are everywhere, and are generally very precise, and in sync with each other.

But this only tells you what time it is, it doesn't tell you when it's time to go home.

Today, I came across something, that mentioned candles.  And these candles weren't just for providing illumination, these candles were used to measure time.  Specifically, this article noted that - back in the mid 1800s, when you went to a ball, you knew how much longer the ball would last, based on the size of the candles remaining.  The hosts of the ball would put candles around the room, choosing certain types and sizes of candles.  There were 2 hour candles, 4 hour candles, 6 hour candles... well, you get the idea.  Not only did the candles provide nice lighting for the event, but when the candles burned out, it was time to go home.

I like that.  I like it a lot.  There are a lot of times when I'm at an event, and it's just not clear when the event is over.  If I'm one of the early ones to leave, I worry I'll offend the host, and I find myself making all sorts of excuses as to why I have to leave.  If I look around and suddenly realize I'm one of the last to leave, I worry that I've overstayed my welcome.  So I spend the evening keeping an eye on the crowd, trying to judge when departure levels have hit the mid-point.

Yes, I wear a watch.  Yes I have a cell phone, and an iPad.  All of these things tell me what time it is, but they don't tell me when it's time to go home.  I seldom stay overnight at other people's houses, and I'm in bars even more seldom than that.
Perhaps it's time to return to candles.  What a nice, subtle, genteel way to get the message across.

No, I don't really expect this notion to catch on, no matter how persuasive I am.  But I still think it's a good idea.

In the meantime --  I hear the kettle, and we all know that's time for tea.

But before I go, for those who are in the US, and elsewhere, celebrating Mother's Day this Sunday.... Happy Mother's Day.  Nope, with one exception, none of you are my mother... but it's not called MY Mother's Day... it's just called Mother's Day.  In fact, if you are or were a Mother, you have or had a Mother, or you know a Mother... I hope you have a Happy Mother's Day.

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