The Procrastinator’s Clock
March 7, 2016 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Every clock at New York's Grand Central Station runs one minute fast by design. It's not an uncommon psychological trick: an informal poll of the Straight Dope message board turns up dozens of people who set their clocks 1, 15, or 30 minutes ahead to encourage punctuality and "create" more time. "The problem with this" (points out Crooked Timber) "is that if you’re half-way rational, you’ll correct for the error, making it useless. So the solution is to have a probabilistic clock, where the clock is fast, but you aren’t sure how fast it is within a given and relatively short time range."

(Some of the javascript in the last linked page seems to have broken down over the years, so here's a direct link to David Seah's online implementation of the procrastinator's clock.)
posted by Iridic (67 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
People are bad with probability. You'll end up assuming it's ~7.5 minutes fast, and then half the time you'll end up being late.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

...oh and you'll be anxious the entire time from the uncertainty.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Or you set it to one minute fast and then immediately forget that you have done so. Having a mind like a steel sieve is helpful sometimes.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2016 [14 favorites]

So why go through all this trouble to make a clock that’s sometimes fast and sometimes not? FEAR, UNCERTAINTY and DOUBT, my friends!

To be honest, those three things get me up and out the door and get stuff done at work, so...yeah. This could work.

I've been lying to myself for years with a clock set fast.




You'll end up assuming it's ~7.5 minutes fast, and then half the time you'll end up being late.

Speaking for myself, as long as there is a healthy dose of fear 100% of the time, it could work...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2016 [10 favorites]

posted by Damienmce at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

All of the clocks hanging in our house are five minutes ahead.

We live in the future.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My late uncle was the slowest human being on earth; if you were scheduling anything with him you had to "set the clock forward" by telling him the start time was half an hour before the actual time, and even then you usually wound up getting there at the last minute or a few minutes late. So now I wonder if he figured out that this was what people did when he was involved and adjusted his own clock accordingly. To this day I have no idea how he managed to hold down a job for his entire adult life.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2016

I used to babysit for a family who had their clock set 15 minutes ahead. I would leave my house five minutes early, walk to their house next door and be late.
posted by ODiV at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Really, if you’re doing something like this, it should be that on any given day it’s fast by a specific number of minutes (since I suspect that's about the time for people to start compensating for it). Then, every night when you’re asleep, it adjusts to a new setting.

Yesterday it was ten minutes fast? Can’t assume it’s the same today! Welcome to the world of punctuality.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2016

My understanding is that the clocks at GCT are accurate, but the trains leave one minute later than the display boards indicate. It would be a shame to set such a beautiful clock to anything but the correct time.
posted by zachlipton at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

My experiment worked! They're all exactly 25 minutes slow! (Why, Doc Brown? Just... why?)
posted by duffell at 1:59 PM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't even.. No.... I mean... You put on your shoes and socks however you like but leave my timepieces accurate so I my '15 minutes early is 5 minutes late' remains my own. You shall not take that from me and induce uncertainty needlessly.

You had one job clock!!!!!
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh my god. My mother is chronically late and tried to use this trick to help her be more on time. Growing up, every clock in the house would be set between 5 and 15 minutes fast, with a different interval for each clock, presumably to keep her from just subtracting ten minutes from the displayed time.

Of course, the net result was that she memorized the exact amount that each clock was ahead by. And, of course, she would periodically change the clocks because she recognized that her memorizing them all was defeating the purpose. So we'd have conversations like:

"Don't we have to go? My doctor's appointment is in fifteen minutes?"
"Oh, don't worry, that clock is twelve minutes fast."
"I thought that one was only six minutes fast?"
"No. I changed it yesterday. We still have six minutes before we have to leave."

And then we would leave ten minutes later.

It drove me absolutely crazy. I grew up to be a person with a bad habit of being late myself, but I still can not abide by a clock that tells the wrong time.
posted by 256 at 2:02 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

One time I was petsitting for a friend on vacation and noticed that their clocks were 20 minutes ahead (this was in the pre-cell phone age). I thought I was doing them a favor by setting them to the correct time. Man-oh-man, were they ever pissed at me when they were 20 minutes late on their first monday back to work. I never knew it was a thing to pretend to fool yourself every day into being punctual.
posted by peeedro at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Now, when it comes to probabilistic clock weirdness, I much prefer the Vetinari clock.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

I set my clock in my car ~8 minutes fast. I think it runs fast so by now it might be 9 minutes fast, but I'm never sure because there are no seconds, so I can't sync it to the precise second of my watch and/or my phone. I know it's fast, and I constantly adjust for it, but I play it safe and assume 8 minutes without checking my watch that's always on me.

My tiny clock in my bathroom though, is bananas. It runs super fast, but somehow it stops being fast after it gets like 25 or so minutes fast. I don't actually know how fast it is because I tell myself not to check. But it makes me wrap things up in the bathroom faster.

I still manage to always be late for things, because I procrastinate the most in my bedroom, where the only clock is the cable box and I can't change it.

My point is that I create weird problems for myself.
posted by numaner at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2016

I love that if I open two of the little 'pop up clocks' I get two different offsets. Very Silly.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:12 PM on March 7, 2016

Is it so hard to actually set a clock to the normal time, and, you know, actually pay attention to it so you're not always late?
posted by chimaera at 2:14 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

So I started a job some 15 years ago. After about a week, I realized that my computer was running about 7 minutes slow. I would reset the clock, but it would go back to being slow. I eventually worked out that it was checking in with a server on the campus and resetting itself. I downloaded a widget from the NTIS to set my computer to the correct time. I felt like I had solved a problem. However, my days went like this:

1. Turn on my computer. It would set itself 7 minutes slow.
2. 10-15 minutes later, it would reset to the correct time.
3. Then it would reset to the slow time.
4. Then it would reset to the correct time.

It was so distracting that I eventually deinstalled the NTIS widget so I wouldn't get timesick. Eventually the institution fixed its server and time was finally right, just in time for me to leave for a new job.

I can tell you, random "wrong time" does not help you get anywhere on time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know that the clock in my car is 10 minutes fast, but it still helps me get to work on time, because it's just enough of a scary "I'm almost late!" feeling that it keeps me from stopping at McDonalds or whatever. Only *part* of my brain is rational, the rest of it is some kind of mad loon.

Probabilistic clock sounds kinda cool though
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I leave my clocks however they end up after the power goes out. And all the clocks in my house are set to different times. Seriously. The beauty of this is that I kind of know it's off by about 2 hours or 5 hours or whatever, but A) I don't know exactly how off it is and B) I can't accidentally find out what time it is.

See, I'm pretty good with being punctual. My problem is that knowing the time kind of stresses me out. Like when you wake up in the middle of the night and think "Only 2 hours left to sleep" or whatever. In grad school I kept my clock-radio on the floor under the bed so I couldn't see it during the night, but later I switched to the "doesn't matter if I see it, I'm too groggy to do the math" method. It works for me and if I actually want to know the time then I can look at my watch or phone which are set correctly.

The one downside to my method is that people who visit me are either in a hurry to leave cause look how late it is or accidentally stay longer than they intend and then end up rushing. But no one who knows me is particularly surprised to find my clocks set to quasi-random times once they learn they are. I mean you wouldn't guess my clocks are wrong, but if you find out, it's not like it's all that surprising. It does seem like something I would do.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

256, how come I never saw you around the house growing up?
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:28 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

The GF has every clock set to a different time (I had to insist the nightstand clock be set to actual time) and she still runs late for everything.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:29 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

The GF has every clock set to a different time (I had to insist the nightstand clock be set to actual time)

I'm telling you, different times is the way to live. And the nightstand clock is the last clock that should be set to the actual time.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:32 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did this on purpose from when I was a kid till when I started using my phone as my only alarm clock. I would not pay attention to the clock during my before-bed routine, then close my eyes and rapidly flick the time up and down a random number of times in a pattern that usually ended up +/- 5 minutes from correct at the end. I had to do this because I sleep very heavily, especially as a kid, and only the terror of uncertainty was enough to wake me up.

If there was a phone alarm clock app that did that automatically (but not have to change the actual phone time) I'd be all over it.
posted by neonrev at 2:37 PM on March 7, 2016

As someone who is usually punctual, these articlesare like a view into a weird nightmare universe. Part of me is like "wouldn't it be easier to just decide to be on time?" I want to say that I think the effort would be better spent on figuring out why people are late and fixing that than spending a lot of effort on trying to trick them into being on time. But I guess that is a very difficult problem. My chronically late friends stay inexplicably chronically late, and even if I watch them get ready I can't figure it out.

Sometimes I resort to tricking them.
posted by surlyben at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I got an alarm clock that supposedly never needs to be set a while back, and of course it is wrong but I have no idea how to set it. By now it's drifted enough that it is fast by approximately the time it takes me to shower and shave, so that's actually almost convenient.
posted by ckape at 2:47 PM on March 7, 2016

tl;dr. I'll read this later.
posted by Chuffy at 3:20 PM on March 7, 2016

A few personal time observations with regard to how I set and interact with clocks, etc.

- My computer and phone clocks are set to the same time, as set by the Internet.
- House clock is different. For some reason it's always off by a minute or two. No one ever bothers to fix it.
- Clock on my car is set intentionally 7 minutes ahead so that I'm always worried about getting to a place on time. Gives me a buffer with regard to finding parking, being late, etc.
- Back when I used a watch (mostly in my childhood), that was also set intentionally ahead, mostly so I would never be late to dinner and face the wrath of my mother.
- When I set alarms for waking up, I always end up setting it so that its an odd numeral, like: 6:53 a.m. or 7:07 a.m., etc.
posted by Fizz at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2016

My wife tried to set our alarm clock fast for this reason, but I get up for work way before she does so all it did was rob me of sleep.

None of our clocks growing up had the correct time, but that was because my father was an amateur antique clock restorer. We always had around 50 wind up clocks hanging on the walls at any given time, and the vagaries of centuries old movements being what they are it was an impossibility to keep them synchronized.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:25 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

For a while I was taking classes at a college where a "9:00 class" started at 9:10, a "10:00 class" started at 10:10, and so on. Then I transferred to a school that was run by normal human beings and was LATE TO EVERYTHING FOR YEARS because apparently I am incapable of learning.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:26 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to be pretty bad with clocks, although as I enter my mid-thirties, thanks to a (hopefully brief) return to the suburbs and train travel, somehow I've gotten very good at being on time in a way I wasn't just a decade ago.

On a semi-related note, we have a zippy little car with a speedometer that runs about 4mph slow, according to the GPS/Waze. This is a known trait on the forums for this car, but the wifey has not noticed, and I'm not in a hurry to point it out.
posted by Leviathant at 3:28 PM on March 7, 2016

My Aunt and Uncle have a perennially late friend, let's call him Bob. At the rehearsal dinner for their wedding, they reminded everyone to be at the church by 9am, then jokingly told Bob to be there at 8. When my family and I pulled up to the church a little after 9, no-one was there. Except Bob.
posted by ckape at 3:28 PM on March 7, 2016

My trick is to set the clock correctly and then make good estimates for how long things will take so I am always on time.
posted by Nothing at 3:39 PM on March 7, 2016 [12 favorites]

Oh god. I grew up in a hose with every clock set 5 min fast. It drove me crazy, to the point I would hide my watch from my parents so I had ONE CLOCK that was right. No thank you!
posted by strixus at 3:40 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

you'll be anxious the entire time from the uncertainty

My wife had a tendency to self-sabotage by 'losing track' of time and then leaving a chaos hurricane behind when she noticed. This drove me nuts, in the time-tested manner of lasting spousal relationships everywhere.

I started randomly setting all the clocks in our living area to uncertain amounts of fast, generally from 2-10 minutes ahead of 'true' clock time. She was unhappy with this arrangement at first for the exact reason cited in the quotes line above, but eventually began to successfully internalize personal time budgeting strategies that reduced the incidence of panicked departure and therefore her overall level of anxiety.

Then we got cell phones, which show the correct time at all times. Happily, the new pattern resisted the introduction of disambiguated time. Now, if I detune the clocks again, she just resets them and lets me know by finding an appropriate return prank to perform.
posted by mwhybark at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2016

I've had appointments with two doctors in the last month. And in both offices, the clocks were all 3-4 minutes ahead (I don't like to say 'fast' anymore in the post-spring-wound era). And I did not have to wait more than a few minutes beyond my appointment time AND both doctors spent more time with me than originally planned (by them AND me). Interesting phenomenon, but one I fully support for health care professionals.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

We implemented a rule like this for meeting up with large groups of friends. We call it the "laters gonna late" rule. The way it works is, we all agree we're going to meet up at 5:30 to go get drinks, for example. Once there is a quorum of people at the agreed meeting spot, they then use a random number generator to determine how many minutes after the agreed time they will wait for people, usually up to a max of 15 minutes. This has had the dual effect of people being more on time, or if they get hung up with something, texting to let us know to go on ahead without them and they'll meet us later.
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 4:07 PM on March 7, 2016

I believe the headline for the first link is (heh) wrong. The clocks at Grand Central are not set incorrectly - the display board shows departure times that are one minute too early. That is, a train leaving at 9:45 will show a 9:44 departure time on the big board and other signage. So people looking at accurate clocks (e.g. all the clocks in Grand Central) actually get an extra minute before their train leaves.

This, to me, is very different from having the clocks set wrong. There's still an underlying respect for the time-frame that everyone shares outside of the train station.
posted by bruceo at 4:13 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

The clock on our nightstand is now 9 minutes fast. It used to be only 4 or 5, but it drifts. I don't know why.

I hate having fast clocks, but it's on my wife's side of the bed, so I leave it be and just do the math.

The clock in her car is half an hour fast. I have no idea why it's so far off, but it drives me batty.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2016

Count me among those who wonder why people just can't learn how to be on time. It's not that I am always on time but clock tricks just make me late and frustrated.

My mother in law has one clock off by such weird amounts that it still startles me all the time even after 20 years. It's not off consistently but she always knows what the real time is at a glance so I don't see how it helps her. We were recently dropping the kids off so we could head to a meeting and I said "we are late already!! The meeting is at 3:00 and I know it's wrong but it's 3:45 on that clock already!!" We were there with time to spare. But then next time it'll be 'only' 15 minutes off.

The 'Procrastinator's Clock' sounds evil to me. Why do I want more fear, uncertainty, and doubt? I'd rather just be late.

For some reason I also cannot wrap my head around which way is 'fast' and which is 'slow'. I'll think I know but then convince myself that I'm wrong and then just be confused.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2016

The Corpus Clock runs highly irregularly and is correct only once every five minutes.
posted by qntm at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

My trick is to set the clock correctly and then make good estimates for how long things will take so I am always on time.

Damn. Sounds tedious.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:33 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

One of the few big disagreements that my wife and I have had was over a nightstand clock that she kept set ten minutes fast. There's just no way that I can live in a house with an incorrectly set clock. Every time I'd look at that damn clock with its wrong time, it was like having needles stuck in me. Ugh.
posted by octothorpe at 4:47 PM on March 7, 2016

Recently I told my wife that I thought her car was some insane time vortex because the moment we got into the car, we were always late, no matter what. She didn't even skip a beat: "oh it's set five minutes ahead"
posted by sleeping bear at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2016

During training in the Navy, I lived in the barracks and learned exactly how long it took to get to school. I counted from front door to sitting in my chair with a cup of coffee. Then I set my room clock not to the correct time, but to the time it would be when I got there.

No groggy morning math. If I had to be there at 7:20, then I had to leave when the clock said 7:20. Worked great unless I forgot to reset the clock the night before we met somewhere different, like the gym.
posted by ctmf at 6:25 PM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I still owned a car its clock gained about a minute a month, but WTOP broadcasts "traffic and weather together on the 8s" and that doesn't work if your clock isn't closely enough aligned to theirs, so buh-lee-hee-heeve you me I reset the clock whenever I was stuck in traffic and juuust missed the traffic report that would have told me exactly how bad it was going to be that day.
posted by fedward at 6:58 PM on March 7, 2016

This isn't the same, but when I was throwing house shows I'd make sure the Facebook events that I created would have the time set about an hour earlier than when the bands would be setting up, because a lot of people say to themselves "the event page says 9 so no one is going to show up until 10". This sometimes screwed smaller bands who were playing first. It's a weird thing, because no one wants to be there early and not know anyone and be standing around awkwardly without their friends.
posted by gucci mane at 7:05 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to be really awful with waking up on time, so I would set my alarm clock ahead just a little bit to scare myself into waking up. And then I'd get used to it, so I'd set the clock ahead further. Then I'd get used to that too, so after a while I started setting my clock to completely random times by jamming on the hour/minute buttons while looking away from the clock. This eventually led to all the clocks in my apartment being set to completely different, completely wrong times. All this did in the long run was make me stop caring about what time it was on all my clocks, because I always knew it was wrong anyways. So I stopped setting the time on the clocks after power outages, because who cares anyways, right?

Later in life, I managed to figure out how to wake up at a reasonable time every day like clockwork, but it didn't suddenly convince me to change the clocks back to the actual time. So now I could wake up properly but still didn't know what time it was from looking at my microwave or oven. People would come over and wonder why my clocks said it was four in the morning or noon when it was clearly neither of those things.

Eventually, I moved out of that apartment and a friend of mine took over the lease. Next time I saw her, she asked if I'd done anything to the oven clock. It ran fast, so no matter how often my friend would set the clock back to the regular time, it would eventually read minutes (or even hours) ahead of the actual time. This had apparently gone on for years, but because I didn't care what my clocks said and never used them for actual timekeeping, I never once noticed this.

The irony is that I invented the perfect clock for my younger self through aggressive neglect of proper timekeeping—a clock so unpredictable that it wouldn't stick to the right time even if you tried!—only to get to a point where I didn't need it anymore.
posted by chrominance at 7:11 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Every clock at New York's Grand Central Station runs one minute fast

One minute per what?
posted by Herodios at 7:18 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here in Oregon the laws governing sale of alcoholic beverages are rather strict, and a bar found to still be serving after 2:30 AM can lose their license. Even having people still drinking their drinks at 2:31 can do it.

So a lot of bars have clocks on the wall which are set 15 minutes fast. That gives them a safety margin at closing each night. It's known as "bar time".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:04 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Am I the first person who read the Grand Central article?

The clocks aren't set one minute fast, the trains all leave at one minute past the scheduled time!
posted by yhbc at 8:12 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I set my nightstand/alarm clock 5 minutes ahead, not because I have trouble being on time, but it's like an extra 5 minutes that I can either use to sleep a little more or take a little extra time getting ready (just kidding! It's always an extra 5 minutes to sleep!).

The clocks in the rest of the house are set to the correct time so that I can be on time.
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2016

This is all just an approximation of the traditional cheap old mechanical watch that is a bit slow and you occasionally remember to set it ahead just a bit. Very effective, well, or forget to wind and totally miss an appointment the next day. Soon our personal AI helper will learn our quirks and with the AIofT Active Internet of Things (think electric jolt) we will all be on time. For something. Whether we want to or not.
posted by sammyo at 8:24 PM on March 7, 2016

You can totally do this with calendars. The trick is to not set your calendar itself to display the wrong date, but to consistently put deadlines into it that are a random number of days early. I tend to go for anything up to a week early, but more often just a day or two. Then I make sure my email is disorganised enough that I can't possibly find the original mail about the actual deadline. (Yeah, let's pretend that bit is deliberate).

So when I see a deadline in my calendar, I can't be certain that it isn't that day or one day later, but there also might be a buffer of up to a week.

The only deadline I have missed since I implemented this system was a couple of weeks ago, when on the day when I had already started to do the task because I thought it was due at 5pm, the person who set the deadline emailed a reminder that it was due in one week's time. So I sighed in relief, turned to something more important, and forgot to reschedule it in my calendar. So then I missed the deadline entirely and it was difficult to explain to the person involved that it was because of their reminder.
posted by lollusc at 11:57 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

In highschool my bog-standard casio wristwatch displayed, amongst other things, the year.

Setting it four years ahead didn't screw up what day of the week it was, but it didn't help my mild tendency to be late.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:34 AM on March 8, 2016

A short story on where this exact schizophrenia would take you:
posted by Drogue at 1:35 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Soon our personal AI helper will learn our quirks and with the AIofT Active Internet of Things (think electric jolt) we will all be on time. For something. Whether we want to or not.

You'll be on time. I'll be four years early to everything.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:35 AM on March 8, 2016

I got an alarm clock that supposedly never needs to be set a while back, and of course it is wrong but I have no idea how to set it.

So it's running on the same idea as non-iron shirts and never-sharpen knives.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:13 AM on March 8, 2016

This looks a little dated, so here's a JavaScript version:
posted by Phssthpok at 4:09 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fantastic, they've invented a shitty clock that doesn't tell the time. Casio did this way way back in the 70's.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:27 AM on March 8, 2016

During training in the Navy, I lived in the barracks and learned exactly how long it took to get to school. I counted from front door to sitting in my chair with a cup of coffee. Then I set my room clock not to the correct time, but to the time it would be when I got there.

No groggy morning math. If I had to be there at 7:20, then I had to leave when the clock said 7:20.

I love this idea so much! It might be a little harder to adapt to more variable schedules, especially since I have to take into account differences in traffic if I leave at 8 am vs 9 am, for example, but I still love it.

And for anyone who's like, "Well, why don't you just leave on time?" then I would encourage you to take a look at the recent executive function thread. "Just leave on time" seems pretty simple, right? But for a lot of us, it's just not that easy.

One of the things I like about ctmf's "set the clock for the time when you have to arrive" thing is that it's unambiguous. I feel like I'm really bad at taking into account all the small things I have to do (beyond get dressed and eat breakfast) before I leave the house. Like, turn down the thermostat, check that the dog has water, pack my lunch, check that I didn't forget my keys or my access card (and then desperately look for keys, even though they usually just ended up at the bottom of my bag).

I also have a bad habit of being like, "I'll leave at 8:15," but I actually could leave at 8:20 or 8:25 and be on time, so then everything just gets kind of muddled. I usually end up arriving just barely on time, and that's because my only saving grace is a short commute that isn't prone to major traffic jams.

If I have something super important like a job interview, especially somewhere that I'm not familiar with, i've been known to arrive two hours early to compensate for my poor mental calculus with this kind of thing.

Oh, and currently I do use the 5 minute ahead thing, but only for the clock in the kitchen because that's what I'm looking at when I'm preparing to leave and need that "get out now" push.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:31 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

The clock in my car runs slightly fast so at any given moment it's anywhere from a few seconds to about two minutes fast and I'm never sure just how much. Once it gets to around three minutes I tend to notice and correct it and the whole process starts over again.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2016

5 minutes ahead is just about right not because I'm afraid I'll be late but because I like to be early. I want to have the advantage...
posted by judson at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2016

Probabalistic, schmobabalistic. I have a bunch of mechanical clocks, all of which are dodgy as actual time-keepers. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, depending on how warm it is in the house, which itself changes in furnace season, or if the clock is on an outside wall, which may or may not get sun, also depending on the season... It's a mess.

But if you're after unpredictability, that was achieved a long, long time ago.

Better yet, most of my clocks are cuckoo clocks, and so they all argue with each other all day and night. It's AWESOME.

But I'm half-deaf, so those couple dozen cuckoos don't bother me in the slightest. The neighbours may have a different opinion, though.

posted by Capt. Renault at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I once read that this is the most effective when used as an alarm clock in the AM. It could also work in situations where you are rushed, and the difference just doesn't click. A downside: If someone is running late (or thinks they are), think how fast / aggressive they may drive
posted by still standing at 8:28 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Count me among those who wonder why people just can't learn how to be on time."

Yeah, me too, but my experience of people who run late is that they have NO sense of time or how fast time goes. They think everything takes five minutes. Drive all the way across town? Five minutes!

This is also reminding me of the book My Sweet Audrina, where the narrator is told that her sense of time is screwed up. (Beyond that, spoilers.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:28 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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