Time isn’t just money, its life.
This is the premise to Harlan Ellison’s classic short story, “Repent Harlequin, said the Ticktockman.” In the story a dystopian future is run on a strict schedule by a mysterious authority called the Ticktockman. In this future, being late isn’t merely impolite, it’s a crime, with the punishment being an equivalent amount of time being revoked from that person’s life until they are “turned off.” One man though stands against the status quo. The masked vigilante Harlequin spends his time disrupting the flow of this ordered world and forcing people to question their lives. In “Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” by Harlan Ellison, the author uses satire to warn us of the dangers of a society that values order and punctuality above all else.
The world of the Ticktockman can be easily imagined today, when things such as being late can incur a cost, or having to account for every 15 minutes of work time lost. It’s a world which has “a society where the single driving force was order and unity and promptness and clocklike precision …” This World goes so far in its devotion to time that time no longer serves them, but they serve time. They “serve time and are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the suns passing, bound into a life predicted on restrictions because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight.” This society is very orderly and efficient, but that leaves its people vunreble when something unexpected happens.
In a society this efficient and ordered small things will balloon because of everybodys complete reliance on others. A major event in the story is when a work crew who to arrive on time and are practicing “conservation of movement” to board a side walk, are disrupted when Harliquin drops a $150,000 load of jelly beans on them. Because the Jelly beans managed to work their way into the mechanisms of the sidewalk and disable it, the workers were thrown off...