The day/check button my answering machine says it's Thursday, 3:42 am, in a frighteningly robotic, disembodied woman's voice, and the clock radio that came with the phone says it's only yet 3:37 am. My poor, dilapidated CD player, which now dual functions as a CD eater, claims 3:38. My watch reads 5:41 am. I never reset it from my trip to Iowa.

And these are all leaps and bounds of whirring mechanism ahead of the server time, which is 10:13:44. I set them all ahead intentionally. It means I'm never late.

The trick is not just to fool your clocks. Clocks are dimwitted creatures with limited capacity for distrust of their human companions. Clocks are like dogs. No, the real skill is in warping time around yourself until you are actually running on time. It is not you who is early, it is others who are late.

Otherwise, you adapt and take into account as you rush through your shower, or fork down those Wheaties (and what are you doing, eating cereal with a fork?), that things aren't so bad because your clocks are all fast and you have however many minutes to spare. At that rate, you might as well not offset your clocks at all. Worse yet, you may begin overestimating how fast they actually are, and now you are not early, you are not on time: you are late.