On a busy Saturday afternoon at the Info Desk in the Kids'
area of the City of Books
, while we were on hold with Hawthorne
about whether they could find a book on their shelf that we could not find on ours, my co-worker Mary began to say the word "shrub." Repeatedly. "Shrub. It's a good word, isn't it? Shrub. Ssshhhrub. ShruB. Shrrrrub." Ah, the ways we stay sane (or the ways we embrace our insanity) on a busy Saturday afternoon in Kids. As our customers teetered on the other side of the counter, waiting to hear whether their beloved chosen book would be going home with them that night, and the delivery guy brought our sixth cart of the day (chock full of new books just begging to be shelved), and the aisles overflowed people every which way, and the people spilled books on every available surface (including the floor), we repeated the word shrub
Of course we experienced the phenomenon of the word losing its meaning because we said it too many times, and without context. That phenomenon makes me feel like the very fabric of what I hold to be most true and basic in this world is wrenching apart (this is also the feeling I get when my friend Seth talks to me about quantum physics).
That evening, in the relative quiet of the Kids' department after 8 pm, Alexis told me that she became entranced with the word bookstore as she wrote a piece for this blog. "Book. Store. Bookstore," she said to me, by way of demonstrating how easy it is to get caught up in the word. She then more intellectually spoke about why words lose their meaning when we repeat them too often. We become aware of their artifice, their randomness, and finally (gasp) their lack of inherent meaning (Derrida, anyone?). We think about the sound, the symbol, and wonder what in the world that has to do with the tangible thing, or the feeling. We realize the false fronts that prop up our everyday lives.
Ah-ha! I said. That's why I hate Daylight Saving Time. I grew up in Arizona, which does not utilize Daylight Saving Time. Therefore, we are not annually forced to contemplate that we just make time up, and are made to live by it ? yes, I know time is based on the movement of the sun and the moon and the planets, but we make it so exact, down to the second, and the exactitude allows us to tinker. From one day to the next, suddenly we shift an hour. The same position of the sun in the sky signifies a different time. I don't like to be reminded that this thing that commands my life so fundamentally (anyone else out there punch a time clock?) is so fluid, so wavering ? and so governmentally controlled.
And it doesn't make any sense. Which brings me, at last, to books. Last spring, not one but two books came out addressing the crazy history of Daylight Saving Time (no, it's not the farmers' fault). Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time by Michael Downing is easy to read and very informative. Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time by David Prerau has the advantage of including pictures, graphs, and cartoons from back when the establishment of DST was still being debated. I confess I have only dipped into these books; as much as I want to know the why and how of this absurd, taken-for-granted phenomenon, I possibly even more don't want to be reminded of it any more than absolutely necessary. But if you're not as obsessive or easily disturbed as me, both books look worth a proper read.