Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

It was a no-win situation – a lose-lose, if you will. I knew that going in.

My plan was to take a picture at exactly 12 seconds after 12 minutes after 12 o’clock on Wednesday, Dec 12.

You know … 12/12/12 at 12:12:12.

Ahhhh …

Kinda makes your head spin at the beautifully aligned obsessive precision of it all, doesn’t it?

No? Oh, well – maybe it’s just me, then.

Yes, of course it’s just me! And that’s why it’s a no-win situation. Even if I do manage to accomplish my goal and snap the shutter at exactly the right second, well, whoop-de-doo. However, if I fail, erring even one tiny second before or after my mark, then I’ve failed at a meaningless pursuit. Dork.

It’s like the old saying goes: “If your ambition is something really lame, then it’s not technically an ambition.” I’m paraphrasing. No, I’m really just completely making it up. My situation is so uniquely pathetic that there isn’t even an old saying to address it.

I thought all this would finally be out of my system when I took my 10:10:10 on 10/10/10 picture. But no. My thoughts immediately leapt ahead to 11/11/11. That one should have been it, that absolutely delicious convergence of sameness, the perfect time to walk away, to retire at the top of my game. Eleven is so much cooler than 10 or 12. Ten is kinda cocky, whereas 12 just leaves one with a sense of thwarted, unsatisfying sequentiality, as if someone were attempting to count to 1 million but got bored after only reaching two. But even as the 11:11:11 photo was in the bag, I knew I’d be back for more. Whatever charm the 12 lacks, there is a certain finality to it. Unless some serious advances in longevity happen real, real soon, 12/12/12 isn’t something I’ll be seeing again in my lifetime. So the pressure is on. The pressure of lame.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a method of capturing these magical alignments of sweet, perfect numbers. First I turn on the built-in laptop camera so you can see my face on the computer screen. I open the date-and-time window and position it carefully on the screen, so now the exact time (with seconds) and day are digitally displayed right next to a video of my head. The “picture” I take is actually a screen capture, a feat accomplished by pushing three keys simultaneously, delivering a snapshot of exactly what my computer looks like at the moment. During the photo, I hold up my iPhone, with the time displayed on it, next to my face. This is important. It’s a little extra proof of authenticity, the digital equivalent of holding up the front page of a newspaper.

I have exactly one chance to get it right. (Well, except for the second chance that comes 12 hours later. So, two. Two chances. That’s not many, when you think about it.) And yeah, there’s some pressure. There’s lots of pressure. I get nervous. These three magical keys that do the picture taking aren’t all next to one another. There’s a fumbly stretch that needs to be done, and when I get nervous, my fine motor skills suffer. Being off by a precious second is a real possibility. To come this far and end up with a picture on 12/12/12 at 12:12:13 is just too much to bear.

Once I get everything ready, I like to do a few warm-up shots. 12:05:05. Boom – nailed it! 12:06:06. Awww yeah. 12:07:06. What!? C’mon. Time to focus. It’s about to get real!

As the seconds wind down, approaching that one perfect slice of artificially measured eternity, I can feel it. I can feel the finality of it all. Time moves forward at a trudge and a sprint. One minute we’re bored, and the next we never want it to end. And at some point, despite how much we protest that we’re not quite ready – not yet … not yet – the exact final second will come. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part! You’re about to have your picture taken! You have to make a face! And not that stupid one that you always …


Whew. Really, just whew.

Did I make it? Maybe not. Maybe so.

Does it matter? Absolutely! And absolutely not.

See the results for yourself here:

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