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Carol Perkins: Check the Time

Previous Column: Lest We Forget

By Carol Perkins

I tap my arm and Guy knows I want him to show me his watch. He turns his wrist toward me, and I nod. If no one is looking, checking my watch (or Guy's) goes unnoticed. However, if someone is in the middle of a presentation and sees me checking my watch, he might get the message I'm bored and wishing time would pass. That would be the logical conclusion, but not always the correct one.

When I'm caught checking the time in a situation that might hurt someone's feelings or make them self-consciousness, I am embarrassed. Most of the time I check my phone. No one thinks twice when someone checks a phone, even in church or at a funeral. Considered rude by most, checking for the time is habitual.

When President Biden checked his watch as the flag draped coffins of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan came off the planes, I knew he was in trouble. "Oh, no," I said to Guy. "Big mistake." Some of the networks immediately ran with this, playing the clip over and over. I doubt he considered for a second that someone was zooming in on his every move, but after almost fifty years in the spotlight, he should have known.

"Disrespectful" was the overwhelming response. "Irreverent" was another. "Disengaged" was another. Maybe those descriptions were true. Maybe he had participated in this ceremony so many times he was immune to it. I can't think that was the case. Maybe he wanted to know the time. Even though seen as rude, this action, hopefully wasn't meant to send a signal of indifference. Yet, actions often speak louder than words. Our parents taught us that.

If I were in front of a group and someone looked at his watch, I would assume he wished I would close and sit down. With students, that has been often true. After this incident, I will be more attuned to those around me when I check the time in case I send the wrong message.

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This story was posted on 2021-09-18 09:41:05
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