The clocks won’t keep time here. Six little words that sum up life on the compound, actually.
After a while, it starts to feel like an ongoing debate your house is having with… itself. The cordless phone claims 3:20, but the stove clock counters with 3:26. The microwave, diplomatically, suggests splitting the difference at 3:23, while the alarm clock maintains they’re all getting ahead of themselves: it’s clearly 3:18.
You think I’m kidding.
This went on for the first three years here. I’d notice the clocks all wonky every four or five months, shake my head, and quietly reset them.
After the fourth year experiment, in which I left them alone to see how much spread would develop (16 minutes, ladies and gentleman! 16 minutes!), I sighed, set them all back, and posted something pithy on Facebook about the time-warping vortex that is this place. About ten friends on the compound chimed in: “Hey, my clocks do that, too!” “I thought it was just me.” “Crazy! I reset mine every month.”
Half an hour later, a long-timer saw the post and cleared it all up. It’s the electricity, she said: the weird surges and burpy handling of a 110v compound in a 220v country. This prompted a collective “Ahhh,” from the rest of us, a private thank-God-I’m-not-crazy sigh of relief.
It still makes me chuckle. Which is the only halfway-appropriate response to life here. It’s a place where weekends are Thursday-Friday for several decades, until the day the King decides, mid-week, to shake things up a little. It shall be Friday-Saturday, the man says on a June day in 2013, and we wake to the school and company calendars miraculously changed. One can do such things overnight, in one’s artificial world.
This is what we mean with those tongue-in-cheek references to “the Magic Kingdom.” We’re drawing a comparison to Disneyland, yes–but not to any theme park sense of endless fun and adventure. We’re talking about the way life on camp feels distinctly, well, unreal. Like a careful construct of someone’s suburban utopia.
We’re saying it sometimes feels an awful lot like The Truman Show.