Time is on My Side

By John Sica

Most people don’t know but The Rockaway Times comes out every Wednesday.  The reason no one knows this is because it is on “Rockaway Time”.  It is a mystical concept known throughout the beachfront town.  It is not just a phrase; it is a way of life that pulls the locals into its tardy embrace. Rockaway time is always fashionably late.  So our favorite local paper hits the newsstand by Thursday.

Whether you are going to a party, going to see a band, or just meeting someone for lunch or drinks at one of Rockaways’ many bars and restaurants, you must have an official meeting time.  That is basically a starting point.  As someone who has thrown my share of parties, I had to learn that Rockaway time is even greater than daylight saving time.  When the party officially begins and no guests have yet to arrive, the pressure builds.  Perhaps Rockaway is really located somewhere near Chicago, which is an hour behind us.

If you are not from Rockaway, it can be frustrating when you are supposed to meet someone at a specific time, and they aren’t there.  Or when you go see a band that starts at 6, and they are at the bar, not even set up yet.  I, however, think that it is a good thing.  It is reflective of the whole Rockaway vibe.  The laid-back attitude is indicative of the way a beach town should be.  Go with the flow since we are surrounded by water.  I think we have our priorities in order.

However, there are some things that should start on time.  Take, for example, my wedding.  My brother Tommy, the best man, and I stood on the altar of the un-air-conditioned church on a 100-degree day at 11:15 a.m. wondering where my lovely bride was for our 11 a.m. wedding.   When the wedding pictures came back, there was a great shot of my wife, Rita, and her family in her house posing for a picture.  Behind them the clock on the wall read 11:05.   It was a sign of things to come as she is always on Rockaway time.

What is time anyway?  Time was tracked in the Middle Ages by sundials, hourglasses and water clocks.  Sundials were useless on cloudy days, hourglasses had to be turned over, and water clocks would freeze in the winter.  By the 17th century, mechanical clocks were invented using swinging pendulums.   These worked well on land, but sailing ships needed clocks that would work on board their rocking vessels to help navigate the sea.  Sailors had charts showing the position of the sun, moon and stars at various times which would point them in the right direction. But knowing the exact time was necessary.  In the mid 18th century, an English carpenter and clockmaker, John Harrison, invented a clock that would work at sea to within 1/5 of a second per day.

Early civilizations had two types of calendars.  The oldest was based on the cycle of the moon.  Most ancient cultures considered the sliver of a new moon as the start of the month.  Although they had 12 lunar months, there was a problem.  At the end of the year, there were only 354 days.  By Julius Caesar’s time, the lunar calendar had become so out of sync with the seasons that Caesar consulted an astronomer, Sosigenes of Alexandria, to fix the lunar calendar.  He suggested a solar calendar and the rest is history.

The reasons for our tardiness are many.  Rockaway has so many distractions that a well-meaning trip to a meeting with someone can become derailed in so many ways.  When I’m on my way to meet someone, I have to put blinders on while traveling on the boardwalk toward my destination.  You might run into a great band and have to stop and give it a listen.  You might smell some of the great variety of foods emanating from one of the concession stands.  You will run into many friends who want to catch up.  You might see a nice set of waves crashing and be drawn into the ocean.  Or a pickup volleyball game, pickleball, handball, etc.  It’s a miracle if you make it to your destination at all.

I’ve resorted to not making any plans at all.  If someone asks me at 2 o’clock if I’m going to see the band Big Squid at the 106 concessions at six o’clock, I answer.  “I can’t commit to that. How am I supposed to know? What am I, a time traveler?”

Let’s face it, time is nothing more than knowing the relationship between the sun and the earth, and no one spends more time in the sun than the people of Rockaway all summer long.  So if you are a little late, put a positive spin on it, as the world turns.  And I will eventually make it to see Big Squid.

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