Columns

Time, the illusory fleeting measurement of change

Anthony GOMES

Wednesday, May 14, 2014    

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The world has reached a point in its existence where it is forced to change its character because of the malevolent abuses, collectively referred to as "factors of climate change", that express themselves by a world engulfed in plastic waste, tropical storms and 'tsunamis' that cause irreparable damage and loss of life, torrential rains, and floods that destroy the worlds breadbaskets, resulting in worldwide starvation; industrial carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere producing unhealthy smog; and finally "man's inhumanity to man" demonstrated by genocides in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. All of the above horrors are committed in a calibrated framework called Time.

With the rapid advancement of technological science, the nature of Time has had to be altered to accommodate, for example, the expansive development of space travel. Throughout life we have become familiar with "Pips" of the Greenwich Time signal aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) by which we set our watches and clocks. However, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) ceased to be the world's time keeper in 1975. With the advent of space travel, a more accurate source of timekeeping became necessary than that which Greenwich could provide. The Prime Meridian of the world - 0*longitude and the centre of the world's time zone system remains located at The Old Royal Observatory at Greenwich on the river Thames, London. While GMT continues to be used throughout the world, its historic relegation ushered in the era of the Atomic Clock.

The first Atomic Clock, NBS-6, was commissioned to provide time of the accuracy needed to navigate space vehicles. It worked well, but it too was improved in 1994 when the new Atomic Clock NIST-7(National Institute of Standards and Technology) was commissioned in April. Since 1975, the world has been guided by Co-ordinated Universal Time (CUT) which superseded GMT. That is not to say that GMT no longer exists. On the contrary, it is very much alive and still provides a benchmark for many organisations worldwide. However, NIST-7 will lose only a fraction of a second in the next million years.

Let us examine the relevance to Jamaica in the 21 century, contemplating the largest undertaking a logistics hub since Independence, and still abusing Time without improving the nation's punctuality performance, which is so important to the success of the logistics hub development. It was the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce that recognised the problem and initiated Time Observance Day on the 20th day of September 1995; proclaimed by the then Governor General Sir Howard Cooke. The need to obliterate the concept of "Jamaica time" was recognised in light of the fact that this can impact negatively on productivity and international competitiveness. The general objectives of Time Observance Day were building a disciplined society by reinforcing the value of timeliness, thereby aiding in building competitive advantages for the country. Specifically, sensitising Jamaicans to the importance of punctuality to personal and national development; stimulate good timekeeping among the youth; and reduce the man hour's lost due to unpunctuality.

At the personal level, most readers will have had the experience of waiting an hour or more for a meeting which was arranged, in the first place, by the person you came to meet. Regrettably, Government officials and professionals are some of the worst offenders, made all the more unacceptable by the fact that they should be setting the example for the society. Frequently, the reason advanced for this behaviour is that they are very busy and their time is valuable, so you are obliged to wait until the opportunity arrives for the meeting. Have you not asked yourself on such occasions "What about my time? Is it not also very valuable?" Have you ever considered the cost to yourself, or to your employer or to others who will be inconvenienced by your being detained for an unscheduled amount of time? So the domino effect is created, with you being late for your next engagement and the inevitable adverse reflection on your ability to be punctual.

Enough said about the problem with which all of us are unfortunately familiar. What is to be done about it? At the individual level, it is suggested you adopt a rule observed by one of Jamaica's leading businessmen. Always arrive punctually for your appointment being prepared to wait up to a quarter of an hour for the meeting and no more. If you have not been received or attended to by that time, then leave. This assumes you are not desperately ill sitting in a hospital waiting room. When the opportunity arises tell your business acquaintance of the inconvenience caused by such a cavalier attitude.

How many times have we heard the lament: "I don't have enough Time", or "I wish I had more Time"? The reality is that there are only 24 hours in each day, and we will never have any more. How these hours are allocated determines the best use of Time. The measurement of its change can be seen each time we look in the mirror or observe the rapid maturing of our children. One day in the future we will look back and think "where did all that Time go? Could I have made better use of it?" Then it will probably be too late, as the sand in the hour glass will be running out. Don't delay, make the effort to get the most out of each day, and astound yourself by being punctual, not only for once, but for the rest of Time.

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