The following conversation seems to take place all too often at my house. Me: What happened to this (shower curtain, toaster, book, door, lawn chair, etc. etc.)? Child: It got broken. Me: But how did it break? Child: I dunno. It just broke. And we need a new one.
In my house, it seems, no person is ever actually responsible for breaking anything: things just simply “break.” It is almost as if my house—and everything in it—is nothing more than a tiny, tiny scale model of the Universe, a place where objects (and, unfortunately, people) march inexorably towards entropy, a place where, despite the best intentions of everyone involved, everything must always eventually fall apart and return to the void. In other words, my house is a living, breathing representation of the second law of thermodynamics, the same law which states that it is the natural tendency of the Universe to fall apart into disorder over time. Of course, the second law of thermodynamics is usually thought to refer to a lot of time—vast amounts. In my house, unfortunately, it all happens on a faster scale. Much, much faster. Like, say, in six months or less.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” should probably be painted on my front door, a warning to all those who unknowingly enter my house’s accelerated time status. That alarm clock you just bought? Better not bring it inside: it will fast forward to the end of its life in minutes. And your new ipod? Forget about it. It now has a life expectancy of seconds.
Of course, you might get lucky. You might stumble upon one of my house’s rare “time pockets” where things age normally. Curiously, these places all seem to be clustered around the areas where only adults congregate (or are supposed to congregate). Places like my office, my bedroom, and the adjoining bathroom. It’s fascinating, really: a hair dryer that has lived for years quite successfully in my bathroom will, upon a brief relocation to the children’s bathroom, instantly fall apart.
“What happened to this hair dryer?” I’ll ask in dismay, holding the various pieces in my hands.
“It got broke.”
Sometimes I can almost catch the time shift in action. Sitting in the kitchen, I will suddenly notice the sound of a door opening and closing again and again, as if the door was going through an entire lifetime’s worth of opening and closings in one afternoon. Soon thereafter, I will receive the news that “my door got broken.” When I (foolishly) ask what happened to it all I get back will be: “I dunno. It got broke. And we need a new one.”
If I was smart I would figure out a way to work this to my advantage. Have you ever started a recipe without reading the instructions thoroughly, and then, halfway through making it came to a line that said “let sit six months” or something similar? Me, too. If only I had remembered that I could easily have taken care of that step in Clementine’s room in a matter of days.
The worst part about the time shift, though, is that it doesn’t only affect objects: it also affects people. There can be no other explanation for the fact that just last week my kids were toddlers, and now they are teens and preteens. And surely “time shift” is also the only explanation for the fact that I, too, have aged correspondingly. Hmm: and I always thought that the reason I felt so much older every time I went into their rooms was because of the mess. Turns out, it was just the second law of thermodynamics (express version) in action. Again.