Monday, February 26, 2024

Clocked by Time.

It's just arrived.

A genuine time punch clock made by my ex-client IBM--when they made business machines and people, in turn, knew why they were in business--back in the 1950s.

I love machines made in the old style. Of metal. To last. To last as long as the Great Wall of China or the Pulaski Skyway.

Since my wife reconstructed our ramshackle tiny cottage up on the Gingham Coast and I got my first real office in almost a decade--and the best office I've ever had--I've been craving--lusting after, actually--a genuine punch clock.

I went for a walk yesterday night before dinner, and a UPS truck as wide as the asphalt I was walking on was blinking its way down the street. It stopped in front of our place and coughed to a halt. The driver, I thought, must be from the old school. He turned off the ignition--he didn't leave his truck idling--to go get the box.

"Tannenbaum?" He said to me.

"I'll take it," I said as he emerged from the canyon of boxes in the back. He handed the corrugated to me.

"Wow. It's heavy,"  I obvioused. I was afraid for a second Mark Read, CEO of WPP might be sending me a horse's head or something since so many of his ex-clients are working with me now. I felt the bottom of the box for equine ichor. Feeling none, I wrestled it into the house.

I had forgotten I had ordered the ancient time-clock from eBay a week or so ago. I'm not sure if it's functioning--and it was only $49. But I wanted it more as a stern working class reminder of a less effete time than a way to keep track of my hours. 

I carried it down to my office. It sits now, in kind of a bit of interior decorating irony, next to my sleek Apple-white wireless router. It looks, therefore, as appropriate as a Sherman tank next to a Tesla Cyber Truck. One was built to withstand the vicissitudes of time and gunpowder. The other as ephemeral as a donald trump marriage, inheritance or statement of fact.

I plugged the old machine in.

Our house itself was built in 1920, but everything else around me these days is younger than I am. We live in a world where everything, even expiration dates have expiration dates, and it's rare to have a machine built during the Eisenhower administration. I plugged the behemoth in. It's cord was as thick as a water main. It wasn't built to be pretty. It was meant to last. You could vacuum over it with a Toro lawnmower and that cord would scoff at the blades.

There were no lights on the dingus. There was no sign of life.

Today every mechanical device from my electric toothbrush to a heating pad I use once-a-year when my back demands it after, excuse me, an hour's of yard work has pretty little lights on it. Some MBA somewhere has convinced some industrial designer somewhere that lights that indicate nothing are luminescent branding. The interiors of most modern houses today look like landing strips. A dozen machines are blinking. Even though virtually nothing works.

I wasn't sure if the time clock was on. As I was leaving my office, I heard a click like a bank vault closing. Yep, my machine resounds once of a minute. As in, 

8:51, click, Frank's here.
8:52, click, Charlotte's arrived.
8:53, click, Alphonse is here.

The machine was once a symbol of authority, of order, of hierarchy. It presided over a world of bosses and the bossed. Of watchers and people who had to show up on time and couldn't leave early.

That world--and the integrity that comes with hard-work and following the rules that worked for so many centuries--has vanished like democracy in modern amerika. 

My wife said to me, "You know, the most fun jobs I ever had, were places I had to punch in. Even when I flipped burgers at Geno's."

I was lucky enough to punch in and out at Bragno's, the night shift, 4PM-12AM, 1978, Chicago

"Me too," I said, thinking of working at Bragno's liquors on Rush Street in the City of Broad Shoulders, the Hog Butcher of the World.

I wondered why we've lost that. 

Why we've lost machines like the old one in my new office.

Agencies want us to track every bit of respiration we do. A friend at a giant Omnicant agency tells me, "They are tracking people’s IP addresses and letting them know they’re not in the office enough. Even when they’re on shoots and in edit…" 

I don't know why, since your agency day is spent in a windowless conference room, they can't have time-clocks. You punch in when you arrive, punch out when you leave. Let a machine track you. You shouldn't have to string your own noose with a bad SAP time-system.

But that's the world today.

Freedom's just another word for time clock's you don't punch.


And why not:

No comments: