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An Ivy League Student’s Guide to Reading Analog Clocks


Photo with edits by Becky Weisberg / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Imposter syndrome at Penn is real: everyone around you works harder than you do, has higher grades than you do, matches their socks more often than you do, and probably masturbates more effectively than you do. And, yeah, you’ll probably never be able to compete with any of them or succeed at all in life, but today I want to provide you with one advantage that I guarantee you none of those asshats will see coming: the ability to read an analog clock.

Step 1: Figure Out the Numbers Situation - just like nipple coloring, analog clocks are surprisingly diverse. If you’re lucky, you get normal person numbers. However, it’s not uncommon to see some cursive, some Roman numerals, or even a lack of numbers entirely. In that last case, you’re going to need to count on your fingers...until you get to 11. Then, maybe you can find a friend to help you out.

Step 2: The Long Skinny Hand and Short Thick Hand - Interestingly, the longer hand actually stands for the minutes, a shorter period of time, while the shorter handstands for the hours. This proves, once again, that girth >> length. No further comments here.

Step 3: Multiplying by 5 - Yikes! Real math! This is the step that’ll probably lose you. If you haven’t taken linear algebra or don’t know what the number 5 is yet, you can get by with some ~alternative~ terminology. For instance, try saying “quarter to twelve”, “half-past ten”, or “a third into fourteen.” These phrases will throw that unwieldy math back at your audience, forcing them to be the ones to struggle with fractions.

Step 4: AM or PM - This step is perhaps the simplest: Just look outside and see whether it’s light or dark. If it’s light outside, there’s an approximately 50% chance that it’s AM. And if it’s dark outside, there’s an approximately 50% chance that it’s PM. Unless you’re in Alaska or some shit - then there’s a 100% chance you’re miserable and disoriented all the time.

Step 5: How to Effectively Stall While You Do All the Math Involved - All you need to do here is say “Oh! I must have forgotten to set my watch back when I returned from Prague last night!” People will think that you are rich, worldly, and so on top of your shit that you actually manually reset your watch when you travel. They will be so distracted by these things that they won’t notice if you pull out your iPhone to check the time.