Why bad science is as much of a threat to the elderly as age itself
A couple of years ago, I moved from California to a small town Southern Germany. Determined to experience the ancient wonders of my new hometown to the fullest, I spent my first two months living in a cupboard-sized hotel room, patiently waiting for my dream apartment — in a converted fifteenth century nunnery — to become available.
When the time came to leave my cupboard and move in, I realized I had neglected a very important piece of due diligence. The apartment is a loft in the attic of the nunnery, and its many windows stare directly at the clock tower of a church. ‘Handy view of the clock!’ I had thought at the time I fell in love with the place. What did not occur to me then, but was soon to be brutally revealed, is that a ‘clock tower’ can also be a ‘bell tower.’ (Had I thought of this, I might have noticed that by sticking my head out of the window, I could enjoy a glorious, uninterrupted view of the clock tower of another church, which dominates the town centre.)
Because I failed to make the clock tower – bell tower association, I settled down to sleep that first night in complete ignorance of the plans that had been made to greet me. On the stroke of each quarter-hour I was to be welcomed to the neighborhood by locals only too happy to pass the time of day: One deafening bong for the quarter hour; two deafening bongs for the half-hour, three deafening bongs for the three-quarter-hour, and as many deafening bongs as it took to enumerate the hour (plus a few helpful peals to discriminate the hour-bongs from all the other bongs). And although this alone would have been perfectly sufficient to crush my hopes of a good night’s sleep, there was more: Each heavy metal communiqué from the bell tower opposite my apartment was accompanied by another, slightly offset message from the other church; a subtle reminder that just as they differ slightly in their conceptions of the divine, so each demurs at the other’s idea of the exact state of time.
Less than three years ago I despaired of every sleeping more than an hour or so in my new home, yet now I barely notice the bells. Why? (more…)