The Significance of Time

[Excerpt from Taxi Dancer]

It was a job. And like all jobs, there were routines and procedures to adhere to. The bus came two hours before takeoff. Briefing at one plus thirty. Get the weather; study target photos, when available; tro on down to Personal Equipment to pick up chaps and chutes and baby bottles filled with fresh tap water. Stop at the Green Weenie for a moldy hotdog smothered in onions, relish, and mustard. Start engines thirty minutes before takeoff. Taxi five minutes later.Stop on the hammerhead for a leak check and weapons arming. Take the active runway one minute before takeoff. Set the parking brakes and watch the clock unwind. Release brakes, plug in the throttle, watch gauges, plug in the afterburner, pull the nose up, pop the gear handle, retract flaps, set climb power and you’re on your way. It’s just like being at the office. A radio for the boss to call you. Colleagues in nearby offices doing their jobs. Absolutely no different. Except for the terror.

But it all began and ended with time. First task at the mission briefing: set (hack) your watch. Ten minutes later the briefing officer comes in and what does he do? Picks up the phone line to WWV and orders that all watches be synchronized. At the end of the briefing you look up on the wall and check your watch against the master clock — just in case. There is always doubt, a shadow of paranoia about time.

He babes, you go the time? This here Accutron don’t work for shit. STop a crew chief on the flightl ine: Got the time, Sarge? Radio the Command post: I need a time hack, sir. Call the tanker ten minues from rendevous, Red Anchor nav, what time you got up there? To the Forward Air Controller, “Okay Covey, I got you visual over tht hump of red trees to my west. Understand you’re taking heavy ground fire. You got a time hack for Rainbow flight? To the bartender: Hey, Tommie, what time is it man? Clock on the wall always says sixc. it got three to.  Hey Buggs, what’s Seiko say? Two after? No way. Somebody call ops when you’re up for a piss. Fucking Thais can’t keep these clocks straight. At a poker game: Bought this goddamn Seiko up at Oki last month. Guaranteed that Jap outlaw told me. Just sent it back,he said. Send it where? Where the fuck is Seiko? In the hootch: You think that’s bad? You ought to have one of these electric hummers. Hear that sucker buzz? Yeah, Accutron.Gave hunert an five on sale — regular one sixty five. I ‘ve got it a month, see, and I’m wadin’ through the BX and pow I rap the fucker on a glass counter. Ten minutes later I got a Class Six on my hands. So I ship it back to Bullova and six months later they send it back — without a battery. So I buy a new battery, only now they’re up to a buck seventy five and I screw the little bastard into the back of the watch — and nothing! So I send it back to Bullova again and another six months go by and finally one day it shows up sith a gbill for seventy eight dollars for parts and cleaning. My goddamn warranty ran out and it’s been on my wrist a total of two days. Where the fuck are the Swiss when we really need them?

Every man has a watch: Timex, Omega, Rolex, Accutron,.Seikos are most popular — and the least expensive. It’s a big decision. A watch has to fit your personality and it’s got to be easy to hack. One of a pilot’s four essentials: spectacles, testicles, watch ,and wallet. Never take it off, even in the shower. Waterproof, shock-resistant, easy-to-read-dials with luminous hands that sweep through three hundred and sixty degrees like Father Murphy marchin the Stations of the Cross.

It is no longer an instrument on your arm:; it’s a growth. Thais laugh at Americans and their watches. Whores howl over them. How you know him You-ass pilot? Easy: Got big watch and nit noy dick!

You real pilot, chy? You bet, sweet cakes. This here’s my watch and you can checky-check the other part…but before we get this mission rolling, you got the time, sugar?

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