I was invited to a time management seminar. Time management? Really? I began to wonder. Can time really be managed? That question kept repeating in my mind until evening when I went to bed. The debate rolled over and over in my mind like a pair of pants in the dryer, with a quarter in one pocket.
I finally drifted off and found myself dreaming about it. I had been given the assignment of disassembling Big Ben and the sending parts out for cleaning. I took my job very seriously and demanded to see Sir Benjamin Hall, who ordered the original fourteen-ton bell in 1859. Of course, no one could put me in touch with him and I was incensed. I decided Big Ben was behind the times and searched out a new bell maker. Since I knew that the Swiss make incredibly accurate time pieces, I contacted Axel Acklin, whom I was told, comes from a long line of watchmakers and was now employed by Ryser Kentfield, one of the most well-known watchmakers in Switzerland. I hired him to help with Big Ben but soon became aware of some issues that could hinder the project.
Axel had a thick-as-molasses Swiss accent that was extremely difficult to understand. I asked him to use his best English and he reached out and slapped me across the face. I expected to hear a smacking sound but instead it sounded like the bell that ends a round in a boxing match.
Suddenly, he was like a drill sergeant shouting out directives in perfect English. The strange thing is, he yodeled after each order.
“Hey you! 60 minutes! You might be famous on CBS, but around here you work for me! I want that big hand to be dismantled inside of an hour! And you! Sixty seconds! You may have waltzed for a minute with Chopin, but I expect you to fox trot around here, and for a whole lot longer! You, time over there, don’t start thinking you’re special because people believe you heal things! Yeah right, I suspect it’s the antibiotics. Think you’re a big shot do you? Just because you have an American magazine named after you? And where the hell did the day go? Probably out brooding about his bad hair. Has anyone ordered him to have a nice one? Come on you bunch of Nannos, is your hourglass half empty or half full?! It’s showtime, where is everyone? I’m going call attendance and when I do, you better say say present!”
I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. I could see that Axel was taking my job into realms that would have caused Sir Benjamin Hall to roll over in his grave. Big Ben had now been replaced with a Swiss Chalet Cuckoo clock complete with hand-carved figures of alp climbers in leiderhosen, beer maidens, farmers, cows and roosters. On the hour, a great green Cuckoo bird emerged from the gigantic doors and emitted a deafening cuckoo sound followed by a music box version of The Happy Wanderer.
I was aghast at the disrespect Axel had shown to one of England’s most cherished landmarks. He laughed like a sinister villain and confessed that he didn’t work for Ryser Kentfield at all, but was really a member of The Black Forest Society and had plans to steal all time from the world. Big Ben would now be known as Big Cuckoo!
In time, I was mobbed by angry Englishmen and tossed onto the street hungry and timeless. I was begging for spare time and living in a cardboard Timex box. I was nearly unconscious when a light appeared in front of me and a figure appeared. He said his name was Sir Benjamin Hall and he put a hand on my shoulder. His touch was electric. He asked me a question. “Can time really be gained, beat, killed, marked, kept, gained, lost, borrowed, multiplied, pressed, small, big, behind, out, in, taken, parted, filled, right, wrong, ahead of us, or managed?”
I tried to answer but all that came out of my mouth was the sound of a cuckoo.
He smiled warmly and asked, “You have a lifetime, but are you having the time of your life?”
That’s when I awoke and smiled. I finally had my answer.