Sunday, January 18, 2009

Island Time

Island Time: what a concept. There is a select group of people that think that island time is really cool: new arrivals, snowbirds, vacationers. For regular folks it's business as usual in the Keys. Indeed "island time" is a pain in the backside for someone trying to hold down a decent job in the Keys. The problem with "island time" is that it only applies in places where people really don't give a damn whether or not things happen at all, never mind to a schedule. In the Keys "island time"doesn't exist because like it or not this place isn't some Caribbean Island, it's the United States, a place where We Get Things Done.Snowbirds love to describe life in the Keys as laid back, and that's hardly surprising. The golden years they call them, a time of reflection and ease after a life of working to provide for everyone else in the family...They flock to the Keys to enjoy winters at last snow free and warm. They get up nice and early, a lifelong habit, and take their morning constitutionals exchanging pleasantries as they meet outside my window, waking me from a sound sleep. They clog the aisles in the supermarket remarking on how nice it is to meet again "down here," the vaguely defined area south of Up North. They write passionate letters to the Editor about the homeless clogging the beaches, the lack of parking and bad mannered neighbors and their dogs. Issues they will forget about and leave unresolved for next year, because come April they pack their SUVs and RVs for the trek North.Tourists love island time. They fly in for a week of sun and fun and immediately adopt the notion that nothing matters, mon. They are in excellent spirits as they cast off their parkas and expose their lily white limbs to the locals' pained gaze. They get into the Caribbean spirit instantly, making lifelong friends of the bartenders, drinking enough to fool themselves into imagining they too could cast off their formal lives and become "beach bums," like all the much admired raggedly dressed locals...Key West- where dreams come true.Take the ferry out to your week long dream home, cruise Duval on a rented bicycle, no worries. Well, not for a week anyway. The problem is of course that time does matter, especially when something goes a little awry and the dream vacation becomes just one more issue to be dealt with. People who call the police department are rather less on island time when they need to report lost or stolen property, or one more drunken brawl. I can only imagine an island time 9-1-1 conversation: "Key West 9-1-1..."
"My boyfriend beat me up. He's drunk..."
"I'm sorry to hear that sir. However I'm having a lunch break right now. But we'll be happy to get back to you in a bit..."
Yes, that would go over like a lead balloon I'm sure. Island time doesn't stand the test of time in the real world and it sure doesn't apply in our dispatch center: Frankly I am no fan of island time, I enjoy punctuality, I think it is polite, and my pleasure in living here is measured by yardsticks other than my ability to avoid getting anything done. My least favorite place to encounter island time is on the highway. People with nowhere particular to go love to dawdle and you'd think their mothers would have taught them enough good manners to pull over and let pass the wild eyed locals late for their second or third jobs. On those days when I am dawdling I do just that so I like to think I set a good example...I know the views are fabulous, not least because I never tire of them but there are tons of places to pull over and admire them from Flagler's old bridges which make excellent viewing or fishing platforms. There just aren't that many opportunities to pass (legally) especially if there is lots of oncoming traffic, as happens in winter.Island time is a fiction, as much as the widely touted notions that Key West is tropical, or located in the Caribbean, but even a curmudgeon like me has to admit that it is a cheerful fiction, perhaps even a desirable one. I don't get too stressed normally if I get stuck behind a chatty cashier in the check out line, or two cars parked in the street with their occupants chatting up a storm. I'm luckier than most in that even though I actually live and work here I enjoy plenty of time off, as evidenced by this blog, and I like to take my island time on my porch enjoying the view across the salt marshes under the ever present sun. I also do appreciate the fact that people come to Key West's sub-tropical climate to throw off their cares for a short while only, though I get to live here year round includingall through hurricane season. I practice "island time" in the privacy of my own 6,000 square feet of Paradise (courtesy of Wells Fargo Bank):It's an alluring image for many people, coconuts, Conchs and coladas. Too bad the values that make island time impossible to enact, hard work, dedication and persistence, are the very values that earn them enough money to spend time down here at all. A tropical paradox.