By Constance Osuchowski
What has four faces, broken arms and is never on time?
I understand that this is the ‘digital age’ and everyone has a phone, so a shared resource is not strictly necessary. But what about history? What about the simple joy of waking up in the morning and looking at a very large clock?
The answer to the riddle is the Kerr Hall clock.
You see, over the past year, I haven’t had the best luck with cellphones. It turns out that the 7-Eleven across the SLC is not the best place to buy a cellphone. My phone was the same size, shape and weight as a pack of gum, with about just as much functionality. It ran out of battery quickly, overwhelmed with the fear of simply existing. Since then, I’ve depended on strangers and public clocks to tell time.
The Kerr Hall clock became as essential to my way of life on campus as the 7-Eleven.
The day I was almost completely betrayed by a clock I once trusted so much started with a morning like any other.
First, the chorus of songbirds and feral cats that nest outside my window gently roused me from my sleep. I brushed my teeth, cried in the shower, did power stances naked in front of my bedroom mirror (note to self: buy curtains), got dressed and made coffee. I hopped on my bike to go to my 10 a.m. lecture. I biked down Victoria Street, navigating the stream of skateboarders, like wild salmon with rolled-up beanies, flopping upstream and downstream, trying really hard to land a kickflip. I craned my neck to get a look at the clocktower. What I saw stopped me dead in my tracks.
As you may know, Kerr Hall is a large square building in the heart of Ryerson’s campus. Crowning the roof of Kerr Hall South, the Kerr Hall clock towers over Kerr Hall’s four wings, named after their respective cardinal directions. Every September, new students can be found mumbling “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” while pointing and spinning, desperately attempting to figure out which wing of Kerr Hall they’re actually in.
When I looked up past the ivy, at the clock’s lovely little hands, hoping for precision and accuracy, the time read 1:20 p.m. I stopped. I shut my eyes tight, hoping this would wake me up, and opened them again. It was not a dream. The world began spinning in the opposite direction. I’m not proud of what I did next, Ryerson. I lost my goddamn mind. Time suddenly lost all meaning. I fell off my bike, slid to the ground and lay down spread eagle on the concrete, wailing. It couldn’t possibly be past 1 p.m, could it?
“Does anyone know what time it is!? Hello? Does anyone have the time?” I called out.
When no one responded, I saw a glint of white in everybody’s ears. This is when I realized: Oh my god… They can’t hear me… They have airpods in… They all have airpods in.
I briefly attempted to use the infamous Gould Street construction fences, which, like students, are afflicted with the inability to complete projects when promised, as a sundial. It was in this moment I wish I had paid more attention to the survival section of my Grade 8 trip to Muskoka Woods.
Then I heard it—the unmistakably sweet sound of bings and bongs, indicating what time it is.
I had a moment of doubt. Had the bongs always worked? One time during exam season, I swear I heard it play “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, but that may have been a stress-induced hallucination.
I caught a glimpse of a passerby’s wristwatch. It was indeed 10 a.m. Perhaps the clock itself is broken, but the bongs tickled my eardrums as they correctly indicated the turn of a new hour.
I accepted the chorus of bongs as the tower’s new form of communication. We understood each other now. We had more similarities than differences—both a little broken, our time at Ryerson wearing us out. “Constance, it is your time now. Go to class, do your readings, finish your fourth year off strong,” the clock tower bellowed. With tears in my eyes, I nodded. I now know that although her face only tells the truth twice a day, she still has my back. She will always bong in my heart.