A Time of Discovery

Derek Olsen was concerned with time.

Obsessed was a better word. For 36 years, every part of Derek's life had revolved around the clock.

At 6:00 AM every morning, Derek's alarm clock went off. He took a shower at 6:05 which lasted for exactly five minutes. The toaster in Derek's apartment took precisely one minute and 17 seconds to make his breakfast, and the elevator ride to the ground floor, which lasted 45 seconds, allowed Derek to head to work at 6:23 sharp.

Depending on traffic, the commute to the Olsen and Sons Clock and Watch Shop took between 22 and 33 minutes. Derek hated the traffic. The unpredictability of his drive upset him very much. However, he was always able to open the shop at 7:30 every single morning.

On this particular day, Derek had to repair an antique Swiss cuckoo clock. In Derek's opinion, repairing clocks was preferable to selling them. Derek had discovered in high school that he had a special talent at making and repairing clocks, and it gave Derek great pleasure to enable others to keep track of time in their lives. The particular clock he was repairing had been left by one of his regular clients, Edith Carlisle. Edith was an elderly woman living alone in the north of the city. Like Derek, Edith owned a lot of clocks. It seemed to Derek that she was always coming in with "an adorable little clock" that she had purchased at a yard sale or some other such place. Derek looked forward to these visits; it gave him great joy to see another person take such an interest in time.

Today the problem was easy. Several of the gears inside had slipped out of line, preventing the hands from turning on their own. After fifteen minutes and 52 seconds of work, Derek found himself with nothing to do. No other clocks were waiting to be repaired, and with the weather as bad as it was, it was unlikely that any customers would arrive. Perhaps somebody might come in hoping to sell a clock. Derek loved buying clocks. He had picked up a lovely grandfather clockfrom a young woman desperate for cash just three days before. The age of the clock was remarkable to Derek. It seemed almost divine that an object so old could still keep near-perfect time.

Derek knew that he could easily close up and go home, and nobody would blame him for it. However, Derek was scheduled to close at 5:00 PM, and the idea of breaking his routine was abhorrent. He decided to clean up the shop. This job had been neglected for quite some time. Gears and cogs were everywhere, and spare tools could be found lying around. Not wanting to waste any time, Derek started in immediately. After he finished, he checked his pocket watch. It read 12:39. In only six minutes, Derek would be able to go to lunch.

The pocket watch was silver, with the exception of the gold fob chain. The watch had been a gift from his grandfather, and over the years, it became the clock that Derek used as his reference. All clocks and watches entering his shop were set to whatever time was on the watch. Derek kept it wound, and it was never far from his person.

Lunchtime arrived, and Derek Olsen stepped outside. The roads were getting very icy. However, Derek's Jeep Grand Cherokee was the most efficient way to travel, so Derek started up the engine, turned on the defroster, and headed towards the Gleick Bridge, the smallest but most aesthetically-pleasing bridge in town. The Gleick was also the newest, having been constructed only three years ago. The ballot measure to construct a new bridge had started fierce debates before construction began. Many people, particularly Mayor Randall Birdseye, questioned the necessity for allocating funds to build yet another bridge in the city. Derek had voted for the bridge, figuring that more bridges would lead to less unpredictable traffic on his morning commute.

Derek drove over the Gleick, and after seven more minutes of driving, Derek arrived at Pablo's Restaurant. Pablo's was a very small Mexican restaurant, but the food was excellent, the waitresses were friendly, and the service was fast. The waitress, a young high-schooler named Rebecca, came over to Derek's table.

"What will it be, sir?" she asked him.

Derek replied, "Two tacos and an enchilada, please." He then looked at his pocket watch. Apparently the icy roads had slowed Derek down more than he had expected. "I suppose you better make that to go," Derek told Rebecca.

Rebecca was familiar with Derek's obsession with punctuality. "No problem, Mr. Olsen," she said. She rolled her eyes as she left, but Derek didn't catch it.

The food arrived on time, and Derek left Pablo's. He got into his car and turned the key. To Derek's horror, the Jeep did not start. The car was getting old, but this was the first time Derek could remember where it had just flat-out refused to work.

Derek got out of his car and lifted the hood. He had no idea what was wrong with the Jeep. Consulting his pocket watch, Derek unhappily resigned himself to the fact that he would be very late returning to the Clock and Watch Shop.

The squeal of brakes in the distance caused Derek to look up from his watch. A few streets down, in the direction of the Gleick, a large truck had lost its traction on the ice. It plowed into a green car in the other lane. Instantly the green car was crushed. Derek did some mental calculations and realized that if he had been on time, HIS car would have been hit.

Lateness had saved his life.

Derek Olsen, sickened by this realization, dropped his silver pocket watch. It shattered on the pavement below.

Derek didn't notice.

Suddenly, time didn't seem important anymore.