Redwood Stringer #6: Time-Sensitive Obligations

Redwood Stringer #6: Time-Sensitive Obligations

Redwood Stringer #6: Time Sensitive Obligations
by Tom Mahony

I haven’t worn a watch in twenty years. When my last one broke I’d planned on getting it fixed, but two decades later I still haven’t gotten around to it. In that span I’ve grown pleasantly accustomed to not having a foreign object strangling my wrist. Most of the time I don’t need a watch, just use my cell phone or computer as a clock or infer the general time of day by the sun angle. There’s only one occasion when I need one: while surfing before a meeting or other time-sensitive obligation.

After sliding into my wetsuit, I’ll take one last look at my phone and then start my internal clock. It can be surprisingly accurate over short time spans, but the system breaks down after perhaps an hour (even quicker if set waves are taken on the head). When I sense my deadline is approaching but want to milk every last minute of good surf, I ask someone for the time. But nobody else wears a watch either, save for the occasional graybeard or gadget geek with a watch that makes tide predictions so generalized as to be worthless.

Sometimes you’ll get unhelpfully vague information from others in the lineup, like: “It’s between two and three.” You can often mine more precise information from someone who just paddled out, but the accuracy is plus or minus thirty minutes, tops, which is beyond the resolution needed for modern society. (The boss will not be stoked if you stroll into an important meeting thirty minutes late. And telling him you’re late due to an epic session is strongly not recommended.)

On occasion I’ll get a set wave to the beach with plenty of time left. But I usually push things too far and my internal clock goes red with no waves in site. Of course, the later you are, the flatter the ocean. It happens every time. I refuse to suffer the indignity of the paddle-of-shame to the beach, so I end up sweating out the remaining session and invariably catch some pathetic scrap fizzling on the reef, then run up the sand and scramble out of my wetsuit. And whenever I barely make it to an appointment, I curse myself and vow to buy a new watch immediately. I still haven’t gotten around to it, but I will.

In another two decades, tops.

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in central California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Surfer Magazine and dozens of other online and print publications. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, has recently been published as an ebook by Thumbscrews Press: His novel, Imperfect Solitude, was released on December 1, 2010 by Casperian Press. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Tom is also the author of the twitter story, Dead Glass, which was featured on SurfPulse’s twitter feed. Visit him at

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