I have, I realise, a strange pathology. When I am travelling on the bus and coming close to Big Ben I refrain from looking at my own watch or mobile phone to find out the time but wait until I come into view of Big Ben. My thinking is that I should be sponsoring public time pieces. There is of course no extra expense from how many times you consult your own watch or phone. You do not wear out your watch by looking at it. Big Ben himself will not register when you look at him and respond with an appreciative nod. I am not really demonstrating my respect for public services by using the facilities provided. My devotion to public timepieces extends to other public clocks in shops or town hall towers. I prefer to use them rather than my own poor neglected clock face, which must be muttering under its breath, unloved, and raising its eyes to the heavens (I don’t know why I bother!)
Does this betray my naive faith in civic life? There is no reason to believe that a public clock would work better than my personal one. Quite the opposite in fact, as I monitor my own and have no control over the public ones. It is just another instance of the interference between the different bits of your mind that can set up instinctive reactions that don’t work. It also shows how we like to anthropomorphize the objects of our daily life. I like to give all my household objects a crack of the whip. Not to get equal use out of all of them but, rather, so as not to hurt their feelings. I’m nice like that.