Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Clock

So here's a thought I've often had on my way to class.

Across most of the ISU campus, you can hear at least one clock chime the hour. It's like the clock is yelling out, "Hey, you! It's 2:00." (That's interpellation. Hey, YOU!) And everyone reacts a different way.

If you're rushing off to class, that clock can sound very condescending. It's saying, "You. Are. Late." And you panic and hurry a little faster.

If you're in class and you hear that clock, and class happens to be very boring, that clock is probably taunting you. "It's only two o'clock. You have another hour to listen to Professor Monotone drone on, and on, and on..." (Fortunately, I don't have any Professor Monotones this semester. Actually, I've never had a Professor Monotone at 2:00. 11:00, however...)

If you're in an interesting class and you hear the clock, all the clock is really doing is clearing its throat (metaphorically speaking) so that you look at it and do a double take. "What? 2:00, already? Dang..." Except, of course, that you don't actually look at the clock that's making the noise, because you can't see it from the classroom.

That same clock, making the same noise, can mean all sorts of different things. In addition to what I've got listed above, that clock can chime sweet freedom ("Yes! I'm done with class for the day!"), it can be a soothing little background noise while you take a breather on the quad, it can be a ticking time-bomb ("Only one hour left to finish this paper..."), and a bunch of other things I'm just not thinking of right now. If it's two in the morning, it's the exact same sound, but now you're listening to it while you like awake in bed, and it's saying "Yes, you are still awake, you little insomniac," or you're listening to it while you try to finish the assignment you procrastinated on and it's saying "You're running out of time, and now you'll be getting less than x-hours of sleep tonight, and you've still got three pages to go!"

All these different reactions can come from the exact same person, reacting to the exact same sound. And that is why there is more to rhetoric than what the producer of any given anything intends. All that clock wants to say is "It's 2:00!"

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