By Ken Trainor
Clocks slay time ... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.
Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?
Whatever the rock band Chicago was getting at with the rhetorical questions listed above, they clearly apply to Oak Park's public clock situation. Some run right on time. Others don't — and haven't been for a long, well, time.
Some observers, no doubt, think public clocks are obsolete. All you have to do is check your cellphone. Some people still wear watches on their wrists. A few (well, basically me) have a pocket watch attached to the waist by a "fob" (What can I say? I like the feel of it).
So maybe we don't actually "need" public clocks, but, to paraphrase Sheldon Leonard in It's A Wonderful Life, "they give the joint atmosphere." Think about what "Big Ben" does for London — or the clock in the film Back to the Future.
Oak Park has quite a few public clocks (I could only find one in River Forest). The good news is most of them still function. They range from neon-brilliant digital displays to traditional round-faced dials with numbers and two "hands." Two even feature Roman numerals (and four faces), though you have to look closely on the Field's clock, since the symbols are so badly faded.
The problem is, not all of our clocks run on time. Does anybody really care? Well, obviously if you sport a pocket watch you do. If nothing else, it's ironic. It also makes us look careless and sloppy.
So I took matters into my own hands and documented the local public clock situation, with the goal of raising awareness and perhaps prodding the building owners to do some long-overdue maintenance.
My photographic survey took place on the afternoon of Aug. 4. The actual time listed under each photo is, admittedly, based on my pocket watch, but since a number of the clocks agreed with it, we'll call that close enough.