Island time. It’s different from time in most of North America.
In North America, time is kept with a smart phone, phablet, PDA, or—for the very hip—a trendy and retro watch…albeit one that also tracks how many steps you’ve taken so far in your day and annoys you into taking more if it senses you’ve been sitting longer than it thinks you should.
On the island, time is kept by the sun, the moon, and the tides.
In North America, you spend a third to a half of your waking hours each day performing some task in exchange for money, which you then exchange for: a car to drive back and forth to perform those tasks each day; gas and insurance for that car; a place to keep that car and yourself at night; insurance for that place; insurance for you; taxes on that place and that car and that money you work for; and the lights, heating, air conditioning, and food necessary to make it through the night until the next day, when you do it all over again.
On the island, the weather is always warm and the fish are always right out there on the reef or the flats. So you fish for a few hours, and if it rains, you get under a roof. Preferably in a hammock. If you happen to fall asleep, nobody cares and nothing happens. When you wake up, you can do it all over again if you want. Or not, if you caught enough fish the first time.
In North America, electric lights let you go to work before dawn and stay at work until late at night.
On the island, when the sun comes up you can see what you’re doing, if you have anything to do. When it goes down, you can’t see anymore, so you stop what you’re doing and wait for the sun to come up again. Unless you’re at the beach bar, where electric lights let you see well enough to have a couple of beers after sundown.
In North America, the pointed urges of hunger and thirst divide the work day into breakfast, morning break, lunch, afternoon break, and dinner…almost exclusively from a box, can, packet, sleeve, wrapper, or Styrofoam cup.
On the island, the slow surges of the tide divide the day into times when the boat can make it through the cut and when it can’t. In between, you eat fish and fruit when you’re hungry and drink beer or orange soda when you’re dry.
In North America, you can actually run out of time.
On the island, time flows endlessly like the reef currents and the tide and the sea breeze. It heads one way or the other, comes in faster or slower, goes out faster or slower, tugs at you more, tugs at you less, but it never runs out.
Can you bring North American time to the island?
Certainly. There are plenty of folks, even on the island, who are happy to sell their time in exchange for money to perform the tasks that provide the goods and services they and the North Americans who visit the island think they want and need, when they want and need them. And all of them have smart phones, phablets, PDAs, or watches to tell them when that is.
But island time will never get pushed completely off the island by the phones and watches, because the tides will still come and go, the sun will still rise and set, and the moon will still go through her inevitable phases.
Island time is always right out there on the reef and the flat and at the end of the dock and under the cabana and down at the end of the strand where the mangrove crowds the cut. You can bring your phone and your watch along if you want, but before the tide turns once they’ll become mere annoyances that distract you from the nature of real time measured the way the sea and sky intended.
You can’t wear island time like a watch or carry it in your fanny pack like a phone. It can only be tasted like salt and lime, felt like sand underfoot, and counted like the stars shining through the hole in the thatch above the hammock.
That’s how island time is marked.
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