The time now is, uh. It’s just about an hour till … what time is it? I glance at my wristwatch as I do regularly to know just how late I am to the appointment with my parole officer, but there is no watch. Then it hits me. I don’t know the time because my watch stopped. Dead battery, no doubt. So I left it at the nearest jeweler who wasn’t being robbed. I know my watch isn’t on my wrist, but out of instinct I keep glancing down, seeking the proper time. We discuss this small repetitive instance because it is a reminder that we are all creatures of habit. If, as Albert Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then many of us are certifiable. (I added the part about being certifiable.) In my neighborhood, the electric power goes off any time the wind exceeds 5 mph or a sparrow hits a transformer in Amarillo. During and after a hurricane, the blackout can last weeks. Yet there in the dark, each time I walk into a room I automatically flip the light switch. It’s sort of a Pavlovian reflex. I know very well we have no electricity, which is why the house is dark, the temperature is 104 degrees and I can’t watch the Rabid Pet Channel. Nevertheless, I flip my way through the cave. Here’s one: Have you ever had to drive a different car than the ’51 Hudson you manhandle daily? Often it is a spouse’s car, but it can also be a rented car or one you took for a test drive at the dealer’s and never got around to returning. I drive the same gray car every day, and everything is where it should be: the controls for the windshield wiper, ashtray for my cigar, sun visor where I can stick my used gum, and cup holder for my vodka martini. The other day my car was in the shop for its 500,000-mile checkup, so I drove my wife’s black car instead. It was frustrating because each time I started to shift to reverse, change the seat level, turn up the a/c or, on occasion, try to lower the window, while holding my cell phone, to shout at that maniac weaving all over the freeway while talking on his cell phone. Constantly, I would reach for the headlight switch and, instead, spray the front windshield. Another problem: each time I would come out of a store, I would wander around the parking lot looking for a gray car while bypassing that black car, usually in a driving rain. Tell Obama to stop changing things we don’t want to believe in. Menus at familiar restaurants must be consistent, even if the food isn’t. Have you ever opened your newspaper to see nothing is where it is supposed to be? Doonesbury has been replaced by a recipe for curried acorns. The obits have invaded the sports section. Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese?” has been on the best-seller list since the book first came out, but it is a story about adjusting attitudes toward change, especially at work. Yet it is the workplaces, not us, that often move our cheese. Example: You turn on your radio to sing along with Willie as he goes on the road again, and instead you get the Screaming Creeps shouting their latest profanities. The radio station obviously changed its format without even asking your permission. That is upsetting. Stop moving the furniture of my mind. My bank’s name changes so often that its logos and signs are attached with Velcro. Same thing for my local gas station which went from Gulf to Texaco to Exxon, or the other way around. Those establishments also changed from being service stations to being gas stations. Remember when we got service instead of pump-it-yourself gas and a clerk with an impenetrable accent? Still, Campbell’s soup labels are the same as when George Washington heated up chicken broth at Valley Forge. The NBC three-note chime is still there, as is the Hershey’s dark brown wrapper. And I still call them Burma and Bombay. As for wristwatches, they are relatively recent. Once there was a purported photo of Lincoln, but he was wearing a wristwatch. Tilt! They didn’t appear until the late 1800s. One story is that a nanny needed both hands free for her work, so she strapped a clock on her wrist, using a silk band. But initially such devices were only worn by women. A real man would never wear one, not on his watch. The fashion world changed in 1911 when Louis Cartier created a wristwatch for a flying pioneer named Santos Dumont. That made it OK to attach watches to limp wrists. In the trenches of WW I, British officers discovered the advantages of not having to stop shooting long enough to fetch out the pocket watch to see if it was tea time. In 1923 the self-winding wristwatch was patented and in the late ‘20s, the quartz watch hit the market. By the ‘70s, Japan was turning out the computerized watch we see today that not only tells time, but gives the date, day of week and such. One of my sons has a watch that does all of that, plus gives the temperature, altitude and the next winning Lotto numbers. All of these changes were minor, in-house improvements. They didn’t shatter world peace like Coca-Cola did when, after generations of selling good old Coke, the company changed its formula. After an outcry, Classic Coke returned, but to this day it is considered one of worst blunders in American business history, right up there with four-gallon-a-mile SUVs which destroyed Detroit. Going back to the early days when only women wore these time pieces, there is the case of a young soldier who refused to wear his Army-issued watch. He was court-martialed for resisting a wrist. Ashby won’t move at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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