Postcards from the Stan – What time is it anyway?

The eloquent, hilarious words that follow are those of my dear friend who I have been so fortunate to have remained close to all of these years since our collegiate days of greasy pizza and one too many bad boys. I often think she’s my better self: fitter, more reasoned, far braver but with the same instinctual love of Marc Jacobs shoes. She’s once again in a sandy place far away and will be reporting on her life and times both sobering and uproarious. She is always in our thoughts.

Greetings again, gentle readers. For those of you who have followed my little musings last year, (all four of you, well, really just my mom and dad because they have to) and for those of your new to my unique brand of humor, it seems that the Army has seen fit to send me to yet another desolate location to practice the second oldest profession in the history of mankind. In order to survive in this rockiest of remote locations, I find it helps to write humorous antidotes to lighten the dreary load and to keep in touch with friends and family. Again, I make no claim to being truthful or factually correct, but rather the goal is to poke the most fun possible at the strange life led by an Army officer.
I must say, the trip to the Stan was much better than the trip to my prior dirt pile. After several stops, starts, stops and more stops, (nine days worth) we finally landed with a hurk and a jerk in a big military jet airplane high in the altitudes of the Stan. After getting settled into my little room, embarking on a grand tour of the camp (all ten minutes of it) and finding my desk in the big operational control center, I began work. As you all know, even though I have been in the Army for some time, in my particular job, I don’t shoot a lot of bullets for the Army. (In fact, they really didn’t give us lawyers more than a handful when we landed, in all honesty, I got a sandwich baggie full. Yep, a whole baloney sandwich’s worth of ammo. Not exactly the most confidence inspiring, but there you go.)
While I still am an Army lawyer, I have taken on a new Sisyphean work assignment for this deployment. While I used to prosecute military criminal offenses in the Sandy Place, I now have the dubious honor of opining on the most obscure of administrative and regulatory matters. Most of what I do involves sitting at a computer and going to lots of meetings and rendering my opinion, all ten cents worth, on matters of such earth shattering national importance such as the ethical legality of the rug given the third ranking General at the camp. As compensation for my often mind numbingly boring job, I have been awarded the title of Chief of my little section. Of course, in reality I am merely Chief of Myself, since I am the only person working in my area and am not yet senior enough to merit minions.
On my first day, I was summoned to a meeting at 0700. But, as I soon learned, 0700 doesn’t really mean what you and I would take to mean 0700. Oh no. The Stan runs on several different clocks, the main clock is called Zulu time. While it sounds the stuff of cheesy dime store thrillers with military heroes called Jock and Striker, the Army really still uses this marker to standardize time. While it is the absolute world wide standard, it bears no reality to the actual time of day. The actual time of day is called Local time. In order to determine what time it is in Zulu time, you must engage in incredibly complicated math, using a formula the may be lost even on some of MIT’s finest. Now folks, I have never claimed to be the smartest of pups, in fact I will proudly proclaim that went to law school expressly so that I didn’t have to do math. So the conversation that follows is what happened when they asked a bunch of numerically challenged lawyers to show up at a meeting scheduled in Zulu time.
Are you going to be in the office at 0700 Zulu for the meeting?
I don’t know, what time is it now?
Its 0530.
Is that 0530 Zulu or 0530 Local?
Its 0530 Local.
So what time is the meeting in local time?
Not sure, but I know its four hours from now.
Four hours from now Local or four hours from now Zulu?
Oh Geez, just be in the Conference Room in four hours!”
Fortunately, I did make it to the meeting on time. Unfortunately, it lasted two looooooonnnnggg hours, hours which didn’t go by any quicker in Zulu time.

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