Most of the shops in the town were closed, some had not opened, the Saturday after Christmas being considered an unpromising time for trade. The small supermarket in the town centre was almost empty, the three members of staff matched the number of customers. “What time is it asked a young woman in a shop uniform?”
“A quarter past four,” answered her companion, with whom she had been stacking shelves.
“Quarter past four? It must be later than that. That means we have another two hours before we finish.” She shrugged her shoulders despondently and returned to the box she was unpacking.
A moment was recalled, a moment when a similar age to the young woman in the shop, a moment when there was a realisation that there were still two hours to go.
Two summers were spent working on the nursery. The day started at 7.45 am and finished at 5 pm. The work was physical and repetitive and there were many hours spent wishing many hours away. One midweek morning, in a field filled with endless rows of iris plants that had to be cut so as to be packaged and dispatched to customers through mail order, there was a moment of shrugging. Few people wore a wristwatch, it would have risked damage, but there was one man who wore an old jacket and tie to work every day, and whose watch was our source of a time check.
Catching a glimpse of his arm, being convinced it was five minutes to twelve, I commented to a friend who had stood up and put his hand to his back, “don’t worry, only an hour until lunchtime.”
“Don’t be daft, we’re only back from our break a short time. Harry, what time is it?”
Harry looked up from the bag into which he was placing cut iris plants. “What do you want to know the time for?” he grunted. “We’ve only just come back from breakfast.” (Breakfast was the name given to the break from 9.45 to 10 o’clock; in former times, the working day had begun at 6.45 and the break at 8.45 was when breakfast was eaten). Harry looked at his watch, “it’s eleven o’clock.”
Two more hours until lunchtime, it seemed an eternity. It felt as though the time had to be endured a second time; one o’clock was very slow in coming.
Of course, one shouldn’t wish time way, time is all we have in which to live, but there are moments one might wish would pass more quickly than others. Once, on a journey, nine minutes seemed to last an hour; other times, a single day seems to have lasted a week.
Oddly, the times one would wish to remain pass far more quickly than two hours in a supermarket.