Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Measuring the moments

kw: musings, time perspective

I tend to think all kinds of things in the shower. It is one of the very few things during which I can't read. I began to wonder how much of my life this daily ritual is taking up. With no paper or calculator handy, I was stuck doing estimates and rough calculations.

Of course, now that I am out of the shower, I can look up things like the number of seconds in a Tropical year (31,556,925 and change), but for horseback math, I just remember 31.5 million seconds, which equals half a million minutes (plus 5%, or 525 k) or just over 8750 hours (8,766). Similarly the "work month" of four and a third weeks (30.333 days) contains 2,620,800 seconds, which I round to 2.5 million; 43,680 minutes (43.5 k); and 728 hours.

The day I can remember exactly: 86,400 s = 1,440 m = 24 h. The week, being seven times as much, comes to 604,800 s (I remember 600 k), 10,080 m (10 k), and 168 h.

Now, how much time do I spend showering? The whole evening ritual, from brushing teeth to squeegeeing water off the walls takes half an hour. That's 1/48th of my day, and that means that every 48 years I spend a year in the showering ritual. I don't think it has been the same length since birth, so I'll just count my adult life, so far 44 years since I was on my own at age 21. In four more years, I'll have racked up that year! Will I have time to accumulate a second year? Not likely; that'll take until I am 117. I have a reasonable prospect of living 90-95 years, but that's probably the limit.

Eating is quite variable. If I was doing all the cooking, I'd want to calculate that separately, anyway, but I find it takes me only about ten minutes to polish off a meal, unless I am at a buffet restaurant, where I can graze for about an hour. Let's ignore that and consider ordinary meals only: Another half hour daily, and another year accumulated per 48 years lived.

Then there are the big time-consumers, sleep and work. I have worked close to a forty-hour week since the age of 19, but my time off has increased in recent years, so that I currently work only 45 weeks per year, effectively, what with holidays and vacation time: 40x45 = 1,800 hours yearly. In earlier years, it was 40x48 = 1,920. Using 47 for a likely average, I find 1,880 hours. In 46 years, so far, that comes to almost 86,500 hours. Divide that by 8,750 hours in a year, and it is just under ten years (9.9).

Sleep is even harder to calculate, because I would sleep 8-9 hours in my twenties, but I get half that or less now. I can discern three periods in my life. Twelve years of an average 8.5 hours, twenty years of 7 hours, and the past fourteen years I average five hours, including any naps I take. That all adds up (using Gregorian years of 365.2425 days) to just under 109,000 hours. Divide that by 8,750, and we get almost 12.4. That's twelve years on the mattress just since I was 19, plus whatever time I spent sleeping in my childhood.

I spend a quite variable amount of time reading every day. Since it is in spurts (breaks, toilet visits, reading before sleep, before some meals—or after) I really can't pin it down, but it comes to an hour or two daily. That adds up to between 1/24 and 1/12 of my time.

Well, I could dig into more things, like hobbies, but I'd have to have a recorded time budget to get any accuracy. Instead, it got me thinking further: A doctor once said most of us get at least two billion heartbeats before the old ticker wears out. My resting heart rate is near 60 per minute, and two billion seconds comes to 63.4 years. So I am a few millions into my third billion. Three billion seconds is almost exactly 95 years. If I have, say, a half billion heartbeats still in me, and I retire soon, I'll have a "disposable time bank" of some 100,000 waking, usable hours. If I am lucky and live to 95, I'll have more like 200,000 hours available. How well will I spend that time?

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