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The Concept of Time

Yet another one... told you I had alot of stuff composed, just needed some finess. This topic has been on my mind forever, and should've been sent earlier... I'm certain some of you can relate to it.. in your individual way.

The concept of time

It’s been a more than a couple months since we’ve been in country and yet it seems like no time at all AND time immemorial. The concept of time has become so foreign to me that I often must look at the calendar to see what day/date it is. If it wasn’t for the date stamp I must put on my daily reports, I’d have no idea what day it is. The weather is the only real way to distinguish months around here. It’s strange.

I have a good idea what time it is to get up – my bladder lets me know. I know what time it is during the day when I have to go to the latrine (see update #7), otherwise the hours seems to pass without notice. There are no kids to drop off or pick up at school, no classes to attend at college or the gym, no running group with which to meet up, no pool league, no movie times, no baseball games to watch, basically no concept of time. The work ‘week’ is continuous. Oh, I try to give the team time off and yeah, it usually falls on a Sunday for us, but we’re always “open for business” because one never knows when the locals will want to meet (we talk to people, remember). The locals, actually all Muslims I think, take Friday as their Sabbath. And although there are fewer local workers on base come Friday, we always work no matter what. But time, by itself is like air, it’s there but you don’t notice it.

If it weren’t for the occasional growl from my gullet I’d not know when to eat. Work never stops, there’s always something to do or something which pops up on the radar. I’m usually in the office by 7am, sometimes earlier, and out by 10pm, sometimes later. There are always meetings at 830pm for some reason with reps from the units we support. Why can’t they meet at a respectable time? I’ve never been a night person so I’ll bet the guys at the meetings think I’m a real a**hole because I don’t say much and when I do it’s usually how we can speed up the meeting or make it more efficient (I hate meetings with no focus and people aimlessly rambling on).

If my mind is this oblivious to the concept of time, I’m sure the minds of my team mates have also dimmed. To combat this “prison sentence” type mentality I’ve instituted a few mind games. No, I haven’t institutionalized the process of messing with their heads – that’s an informal art form in which all of us partake. We have morning Jeopardy trivia questions thanks to the day calendar I found at the PX. The PX is good for more than just Corn Nuts and Whoppers!

Yes, morning Jeopardy has become a ritual, with Mary Danger or Woody always reminding me – they’re so competitive. Just like categories of questions on the show, each day has an assigned category and value amount. Usually the categories last 4-5 days then we get another category for Double Jeopardy and a single question for Final Jeopardy – you’ve seen the show, right? To make it interesting and get the team’s buy-in, I’ve made it a competition among the team members. I replaced the money value with a point value. I don’t take away their points when they’re wrong (you should’ve heard the protests when I suggested it!) and Final Jeopardy is only worth 500 points. I read the question twice and everyone writes their answer on a piece of paper to hand to me. No cheating! I collect the bits of papers with their answer, read the question again then their answers. Correct answers get awarded the corresponding point total. If everyone is correct, everyone gets that number of points. At the end of the competition – which should be at the end of the deployment, I promised the winner a prize. I have no idea what to give them yet. Any ideas? Everyone loves Jeopardy and it kinda gets our logical thought processes flowing – early in the morning. Woody is destroying everyone – and poor Mary – with her “Georgia public school education” is in last place, but we have fun nevertheless.

Jeopardy isn’t the only thing we do to dull the mindless passage of time. I’ve also instituted musical appreciation. Nothing brings people together like music – and in the interest of team building I started this exercise to jog their minds and educate them. So, what is musical appreciation you wonder? It’s delightfully frustrating – for them.

Music appreciation – I’ve got over 8,000 songs on my iPod and a set of speakers I hook them to each morning and sometimes throughout the day. I set the iPod to shuffle and ask the team to guess the artist. With genres like classic rock, pop, classical, grunge, R&B, country, Motown, jazz, and vocal – it really makes them listen and think. We’ve been doing this since early on in the deployment, probably Nov or Dec 09 and we’ve yet to hear the same song twice. Kinda amazing if you ask me. Recently Woody has used his iPod for musical appreciation. It’s been fun to challenge myself with a totally different collection of stuff – Woody’s much younger than me thus it’s not surprising that his tastes differ greatly from mine. My buddy Tom used his music library a few times when he worked with us. Now that was fun – he had a lot of songs from my recent and far past. Suffice to say, everyone loves musical appreciation – even without the competitive aspect.

The last thing I’ve yet to institute to help combat the incessant boredom of sameness is spontaneous “Dance Offs.” Shaniese gave me that idea one day when I caught her jamming to her music while typing a report. She was doing some serious chair dancing and neck bobbing… we surreptitiously gathered around behind her and when she finally noticed us she bust out laughing, a deep gut laugh which got us all laughing. She was in the inspiration for the dance offs.

The concept is easy – each of us takes our MP3/iPod with headphones and listens to whatever music gets us moving. It’d be like we’re all jamming at our own pace in our own bubble – yet together. I can see Woody and Shaniese joining me, but Mary Danger and Chip are too uptight to let loose that way. Unfortunate for them. That’s probably why they won’t do karaoke with me and Woody. What? I haven’t told you about karaoke? I guess ya got another update to look forward to….. More to follow... stay tuned... Fob Salerno

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