Monday, August 8, 2011


When I was working in television, production would generally begin in the middle of May, or the beginning of June, and run until the following February, or early March. This schedule inevitably meant working through the summer, which, no matter how many years I did it, always felt a little “off” to me. Why? Because I always felt like I should have been at camp. (In fact, when I’d go to work in the summer, I used to dress – cut-off jeans shorts, a t-shirt and sandals – like I was in camp.)

I call this condition, “Natural Timing.” Migrating birds have it. There’s some internal sense in them that goes, “It’s time to fly to Florida.” I was going to say “internal clock”, but it’s nothing as identifiable as a clock. It’s, more accurately, nothing at all. Except a feeling.

“Time to go.”

In Kenya, where we once went on a photographic safari, it was necessary for us to visit a number of different game parks, because the animals migrated around, and you had to follow them, or you’d show up at one game park, and there’d be a sign there saying,

“They left.”

On a practical level, there were seasonally dry places, and the animals had to move to wet places, so they’d have access the vegetation that the wet places produced. And of course, if you were an animal whose natural diet was the migrating animals, you had to migrate as well, so you could be near what you eat, even if you had little use for that migratory alternative.

“The other habitat plays havoc with our sinuses, but we have to go there, because that’s where our food went. We don’t even know why they do that. But they go, and we eat them, so we have to go too. And let me tell you, it’s a lot harder to catch them in that other place. You’re sneaking up on your prey, stalking them, as it were, and suddenly, your sinuses kick up, and you’re sneezing all over the underbrush. Your prey, of course, they pick up on that, and off they go. Then, you have to chase them. You’ve got a plugged nose, and you’re easily winded, which means, during the pursuit, you have to occasionally stop to catch your breath. And, I mean, your prey doesn’t stand around, going, “It’s okay. We’ll wait.” They’re gone! The whole thing is really quite irritating. I really wish they’d stay in one place. And I don’t mean the place that gives us the sinus.”

Here comes the “Logic Diagram”: Animals have “Natural Timing.” Human beings are animals. Human beings have “Natural Timing.” (Don’t you just love the “Logic Diagram”? I do.)

Okay, I’m about to brag. You know the way that some people have a heightened sense of smell, or some other heightened ability? Well, I believe I have a heightened sense of “Natural Timing.” I don’t just mean “comedy timing” – I believe I have that too (I’ll get all the bragging out in one paragraph), partly because I was born with it, and partly, through practice – I believe I have a type of timing that applies across the board.

For example, I am almost never late for anything. When I have to be somewhere, I rely upon my “Natural Timing” to tell me exactly when to leave the house, so I will arrive at my destination at precisely the right time. What about “unforeseen circumstances?” you might ask. Not a detriment. I “naturally” factor them in. How does one factor in circumstances that are, by definition, “unforeseen”? I have no idea, but I have this innate ability to do so, resulting in my being chronically “on time”, even for places I don’t want to go, like the dentist.

“You’re right on time.”

(HELPLESSLY) “I know.”

You may not believe this – and then again, you may, in which case, congratulations, because you’re right – I met who ultimately became my wife at exactly the right time. Before that, I may have, on occasion, been in the presence of a potential mate, but, my “Natural Timing” told me that the moment for a transition of this nature was not quite right. And then – again based on some barely definable “Natural Timing” – it was.

Fortunately, the timing was also propitious for the person I married. Otherwise, it’s heartbreak. And I’m getting drunk, and writing really sad, though hopefully timeless, country songs.

Timing is a palpable and overpowering force. In both directions. When you respond to it and, equally so, when you don’t. For example, right now, because of my daughter’s impending wedding, we have rescheduled our annual trip to our cabin in Indiana to the middle of September. Normally, we would be there right now. But we’re not.

And I feel it.

My “Natural Timing” says, I ought to be on vacation. Taking a break. Recharging my batteries. Instead, I’m still here. Writing this post. And – you’ll have to take my word for this – because I’m here and not there, writing it is noticeably harder.

I feel more than the usual amount of effort involved – the “usual” amount being virtually none. Regularly, writing these posts is a complete pleasure. It’s still a pleasure now. Make no mistake about that. But it’s not a complete pleasure.

Circumstances have caused my “Natural Timing” to be unavoidably thrown off. It’s like the birds saying, “You know what? We always migrate October. Let’s migrate in December this year.”

You can do it, I suppose, if you don’t get snowed under.

But it doesn’t feel quite right.


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; I'm sure this is pretty universal for careers that have a rhythm. My parents were educators, father a principal and mother a teacher. The August of the year my father retired (he retired in January) he was very hyper. I thought he would go crazy if he didn't find something to do. Of course, part of this was he'd not found his post work interest and partly it was that the month before Labour Day is the run up to the start of school.

My mother retired some years later and had a similar experience. She confessed that she felt like she ought to be doing something during August. I wonder if these sorts of jobs affect most everyone?


Jessica said...

It doesn't feel right to your readers, either, that you're not in Indiana. We've come to depend on your timing as well, a reliable comfort your blog is.