Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Time Is It In South Africa?


On the day I retired I left my office three hours early and walked to the Ballston Metro Station in suburban Virginia. Before taking the elevator down to the train level for the last time I removed my wrist watch (and some clothing) and threw all of it in the garbage bin by the elevator.

Part of my motivation was to reject the "appearance over substance" mentality that grips the Washington office. Another part of the motivation was to shed my winter clothing and prepare for my departure the next day for Florida. The last part of the motivation was to remove myself from the shackles of being driven by time.

Since that day, February 25, 2008, I have not worn a wrist watch and life is so much nicer this way. Now instead of crawling in bed and dreading the 5:00 a.m. alarm the next morning I go to bed when I want to. If I want to stay up until 3:00 a.m. reading I'll read. If I want to call it a night earlier I will. No longer do I have to be ruled at night by an alarm clock.

The same holds for during the day. My bicycling schedule, especially in spring summer and fall, is regulated by the angle of the sun and by how hard I am slammed by humidity when I walk out the door. If its too much then I wait until later in the day or until the following morning before I ride. That holds whether it's 10:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m.

In pinch times, such as when I have to walk to the bus stop nearby (our local bus system is the Sarasota County Area Transit - SCAT. Honest to cosmic deities its the SCAT bus) I look at the clock on my computer or my Blackberry and know when to leave. Other than that I have just rejected time.

This new found freedom created a small dilemma when I began making plans for my upcoming trip to South Africa. I would have no problem getting to the airport on time for my flight from Sarasota to Atlanta or in making my connection in Atlanta to Jo'burg. There will be clocks and announcements all over the place in the airports.

But what happens when I arrive in South Africa? I wont have my computer with me (just one more reason for someone to rob me) so that option is out. I also wont have my soon-to-be jettisoned Blackberry because the last I checked Verizon doesn't have cell service in South Africa. That option is out.

I will be catching flights internally from Durban to Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, and from Cape Town back to Jo'burg. For each of those flights it will be helpful to know what time it is so I don't miss the flights.

Even more importantly will be knowing what time it is when I am approaching or inside Kruger National Park.


The real dilemma in Kruger is that entrance to each of the "rest camps" (apparently a South African euphemism for really nice hotel and restaurant accommodation scattered throughout the park) close immediately at 18:00 h and don't re-open until 06:00 the next morning.

If you arrive at the entrance gate after closing time you are sunk. Your options are few - sleep in the car and hope you aren't a late night snack for a pride of lions or, well, sleep in your car and hope you aren't a late night snack for a pride of lions. If you are caught outside of the rest camps you are subject to a pretty substantial fine.

Because I refuse to wear a wrist watch ever again, and I wont have my computer or my Blackberry with me, what can I do?

Luckily for me the Dakota Watch Company came up with a solution - the digital compass clip watch.

My sister found out about these in some advertising email she received one day and she forwarded it to me. When I saw this little item I knew that my time telling dilemma in South Africa was over!

It was apparently designed for runners and back packers to clip on to their belt. Because I no longer wear long pants and therefore have no belt, at least I can toss this little gem in a pocket of my day pack and keep track of the time. Some of the cool features include:
Titaniaum Finish
Integrated Carabiner
Electronic Compass with Digital Direction Indication in 16 positions together with degree
6 Operation Modes: Compass, Time, Date, Chronograph, Timer and Alarm
12/24 Hour Display Formats
1/100 Second Chronograph
1 Second Resolution Timer
Daily Alarm
Moonglow ELectro Luminescence
Lightweight Plastic Construction

The company my sister told me about sold the watch for $45.00. The Dakota Watch Company that actually makes the watch sells them for $39.95. Yesterday I found one on Amazon.com for $25.00 (new) so I went with it. An email message a few minutes ago from Amazon informed me that my non-wrist watch shipped today and should be here by Thursday.

Now at least I wont have the verse in this song by Boy George and Culture Club
"time won't give me time" bouncing around in my head any longer as I try to figure out how to keep up on the time without carrying it around on my arm all day long.

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