It was one of those days that changed my life. Okay, maybe not my life- my youth. Well…not even my youth- technically, my day. I was, at the time, walking across Lexington Avenue and 86th. I was looking for a gift shop that would hold the right present for my dad. I had unwittingly “forgotten” to buy him one, and was now strolling through the streets of New York, past those “oh so cute” pink, poufy, humid stores and the modern, white, towering and imposing furniture ones like “West Elm”, and “Bed, Bath and Beyond”. I sped up as I saw a drunkard pass by inches away, and I looked around at the Spanish vendors, screaming themselves hoarse selling “Roasted Nuts! Nice and Hot!”

Suddenly, something caught my eye. It was a cluttered shop on level two of a rather old building, the type that you might expect to be filled with theatre props. I stepped into the building, and pressed the UP button. The elevator, I noticed, as it ascended, was rusty and old-fashioned. Its creaking doors had the look of those things that you wanted to paint, and you started but never finished. The building itself seemed to be a wreck. It was old, antique-like, squished haphazardly between a hair salon and a 60’s diner. The ceiling seemed to have sprung a leak from the heavy rain outside, and the floor itself was expelling a rather foul odor.

The elevator made a slow ascent. It seemed to sink under my weight, even though I was a mere 85 pounds. A faint “beep!” told me of the elevator’s arrival at the second floor. I got out…and my eyes saw those green spots that you see when you come from bright to dark. The store was cluttered, things tipping cautiously on the edges of coffee tables, small Parisian figurines beckoning flirtatiously. Lamp cover shades fine with thick layers of dust laying abandoned on top of hats that had a sort of I-used-to-be-colorful-but-now-I-ain’t look about them. Withered begonias and petunias settled in a not-so-dazzling-array on the crown of an Indian Maharajah, and a glass pitcher filled with a swirling misty liquid precariously dripping onto a proud Don Giovanni portrait. A vintage typewriter and a 20’s dress half off its hanger, as well as a fountain pen that could fit into the hand of a giant.

Most amazing and breathtaking there, however, was the grandfather clock. It was grand, towering, and above all, captivating. It intricate carvings whirled up and about, forgetting all limits as they curved in every nook and cranny of the clock, fading into mere outlines of a squiggle. The elegant, outstanding Roman Numerals on the face of the clock, boasting their importance with a haughty extra loop or a crawling serpentine coil. The hands, too, seemed to be competing for the grand prize. They hung there in place, elaborate labyrinthine curves, an entangled mystery of twirls and twists, waiting, poised, yet unwilling to move a second further. And, most important- they fit the time. For at that moment, with a sharp intake of breath, I realized that time, for a short second, had stopped. I didn’t know how, and I couldn’t tell by any bird’s twitter or the water sloshing outside…but I knew. I froze, entranced, and then… it all seemed too unreal. I thought to myself- How could time stop? And the moment was gone, written in an unrecorded historical document, lost in the many files of life.

Suddenly, I heard a shuffling of papers behind me. I turned abruptly, surprised and unaware that there could be anyone other than I in the shop. It was a bent-over old man with a chalk-white beard and watery, smiling eyes who was arranging papers in a neat pile behind a counter. I approached him, encouraged by his cheerful appearance.

“Hi” I said, trying to be friendly. I was curious about this store, and about its owner.

“Hello there, How can I help you?” The shopkeeper replied in a voice none too friendly than mine.

“Well, I was just wondering about that clock there….” I trailed off, immersed in the mystical quality of the shop and the huge impact it had on my way of thinking. I wanted Tom to think that I was a philosophical person, and I wanted to know if he shared my vision of the clock’s heart-stopping quality.

The old shopkeeper cocked his head to one side, and gave a sad smile, so emotional, yet so sad, that I could just hug him on the spot, and said, “Oh…time? Time….doesn’t exist here.”

I never figured out what he meant, and I never could guess. But through those beautiful, comprehending words, I thought I could understand the pull of time. Our rush to compete against each other, our hurry to win. Our excitement to see the other’s downfall. I saw how the clock had an evil of its own- it showed us how much time we had…to live. It made us look down to it, looking at its many numbers, and it made us time ourselves, look ourselves up and down, and say “Who have I not yet defeated?”. It told us to hurry, and if need be, to go with the flow, not to play up against the current. It was an infinite ticking device, counting the days of our lives, the months, the years. Hence the saying “I work around the clock”, because that’s what we do. We think about it, we look continuously to check if we’re late, to make sure we’re up to date. We’re always timing ourselves. But sometimes, we have to let ourselves go, if only for a second. To relax and understand that sometimes we have to let time stop for us…not us to stop for it.