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Ask not for whom the CVS clock tolls. It doesn't know either.



Yesterday it was 1H4 degrees at A:P6 o'clock in Richmond.

I know this because it said so at my favorite Richmond landmark: the busted CVS clock at Ellwood and Nansemond in Carytown.

You know the old saying, even a broken clock is right twice a day? Nuh-uh. Because there isn't a working clock on the face of the earth that ever declares the time to be 13:[h o'clock.

Perched over the westbound traffic on Ellwood, that "digital timekeeper" spits out a stream of endless mistakes in what looks like an alien alphanumeric system: It's 8:2R at midnight; it's 123 degrees in October. It has become a Richmond landmark famous for its brokenness.

We have something like that in my hometown of Philadelphia. We call it the Liberty Bell.

Our CVS clock is in pretty good company when it comes to defective but beloved things: the Sphinx, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Venus de Milo, Brian Wilson. All made somehow more lovable by their damaged natures.

The thing has been broken for at least as long as I have been aware of it, which is six or seven years. I remember trying to get an answer about it several years ago for a short piece for Style. I remember talking to someone over there who told me — and I am not quoting them here — something like, "We're fixing it soon."

As any good journalist would, I made a follow-up phone call. So what if it was five years later? I was itching to know what the deal is with this clock. Do the CVS people care even a little bit that their clock has become famous for being wrong? What message do they think they are sending to have their company's name stamped over something that is perpetually ineffective?

You'd never catch the Scott & Stringfellow stock-market sign on Main Street declaring the Dow had fallen an astronomical 377.7 points. (Oh, wait a minute. Never mind.) And you could never find fault with the anal-retentive precision of the digital clock on the side of Crestar or SunTrust or Banque DuJour or whatever it is downtown on Cary Street. It seems to project the proper corporate philosophy — "(Insert Bank Name Here): Reliable, accurate, dependable, though not entirely sure of our identity." Meanwhile, the CVS clock seems to say, "CVS: oh, what the hell."

I wanted answers to my questions, but most of all, I was hoping someone at CVS would offer up some hilarious stories about officious blue-hairs who come in to inform the store manager that it is most certainly not 806 degrees outside.

Well, the funniest thing I got out of the CVS folks was the word "Woonsocket," which apparently is an actual town in Rhode Island (I looked it up) where CVS has its corporate headquarters. That, believe it or not, is where I had to call to talk to someone about a clock in Richmond, Va.

It turns out that CVS doesn't own the building, doesn't own the clock, has looked into fixing it, but it just costs too much money to fix a clock that isn't theirs to begin with. Yeah, it's a little embarrassing, droned a spokesman 515 miles away who's never laid eyeballs on the clock. Yeah, customers do ask about it from time to time.

Stop it, man, you're killing me.

It's just as well that nothing will be done it about it. I would hate for it ever to be fixed. There are enough working clocks in the world, tick-tocking real, precious moments of our lives away. And who needs a public thermometer anyway? Lord knows, when we need to know what it's like outside, we have Doppler Max Storm Team First Warning Radar (and, you know, open windows) for that.

No, let's just revel in weirdness and imagine the other universe in which the CVS clock exists — a place where you are never late and never early, and never dressed right for the

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