Is time a resolutely inalterable element as perceived by the average person, or is it more malleable, as suggested by Einstein, something that ebbs and flows like the seductive currents of a cosmic river?
Like it or not, time is one of the major intangible influences that govern our lives and lifestyles. Even though it is allotted equally on a daily basis, some never have enough while others seem to squander it freely.
I once knew a man who went to Walmart and bought over 50 clocks only to discover he still did not have enough time. Conversely, I have observed people who live their lives without the self-imposed constraint of scheduling or planning, as if time were a minor factor in their interface with the world.
Needless to say, each culture deals with time in a way that best suites the overall character of the population.
These questions are on my mind these days as my life incrementally drifts by. Over the years I have noticed the population of expats who live in Mexico still assign a greater value to time than do the nationals. For many gringos, time is and always will be the elusive dictator of their reality.
Having rubbed elbows with many nationals over the years, I am convinced the Mexican culture thrives in the moment. And any stray thoughts of the future are relegated to mañana, that whimsical epoch that exists somewhere beyond today.
In an ideal world to gringos, everyone would show up on time and all scheduled events would commence at exactly their appointed time. But how boring would that be? It would remove both the elements of anticipation and surprise from our daily lives in this kicked-back culture.
Plus, if everyone and everything in Mexico adhered to its predetermined time frame, some gringos would have absolutely nothing to blather on about. (Well, that’s not true; there are many subjects dear to the complaining hearts of some, but my thoughts on those are for another time.)
There are those nationals within the business community who have taken steps to adhere to the contemporary concept of punctuality. But many Mexicans view time as that pesky indicator that many Anglos seem to be obsessed with.
The typical north-of-the-border mind set is: if you make an emergency call to a plumber and he says he will be right there, you would naturally expect to see him post haste. But those of you who have spent more than 15 minutes in Mexico have learned that is not always the case.
Now what you have to realize, and here is where it becomes tricky, is that often the plumber is telling you the truth when he commits to coming right over; at least it was the truth at the time. But between setting the phone down and actually arriving at your doorstep any number of time or mind-consuming events could have taken place in his world, all of which are viewed as vastly more important than your overflowing toilet because they exist in his immediate present.
These people live so much in the moment that I feel they are blameless in their lack of reliability. Lack of reliability as to time compliance commitments have no real relevance – so what is there to attract blame?
So when that plumber finally shows up three days after your emergency call and your backed-up toilet has taken over the first floor of your house, you need to realize it’s not really his fault, it’s his cultural concept of time that has impaired his judgment and delayed his response.
Similarly, you will no doubt have noticed that while you are waiting in line at the bank or any government facility, time only exists in agonizingly drawn-out moments that seem to stretch into days.
There are people in this country who obviously enter a time warp when they take a job behind a desk. Their personal clock goes glacial. And if it is a government bureaucracy, once the queue has been concluded any dealings are like swimming through molasses.
However, the most remarkable thing for me, during such visits, is to watch the nationals patiently waiting for the unhurried bureaucrat to dispense his services while he talks with other workers, or to a friend in the line, or takes a long personal phone call or he serves someone who jumped the queue.
If this lackadaisical attitude was displayed by a public servant in LA or New York the ensuing blood bath would lead the national news. The resultant litigation would take on a life of its own.
But in a society where time does not govern lifestyle, serenity trumps annoyance when folks are made to linger longer than would be normally tolerable to the average gringo. The Zen of the Mexican queue is a seamless and practiced Mexican art form. So awe-inspiring is it that I am attempting to integrate it into my daily life.
The other obvious Mexican distortion of time occurs when some people get behind the wheel of a car. All of a sudden they don’t have enough time and will execute exceedingly reckless maneuvers in congested city traffic only to gain a couple of minutes that you know they will fritter away elsewhere.
What’s the rush? Everyone’s always late to get to wherever they are going anyway, it’s the national custom.
Obviously the true consideration becomes what one does with the time one presumes to have. Do you spend your time wisely? Do you spend your time freely? Do you enjoy your moments as they come, or spend your present in anticipation of some predetermined future?
Remember the adage: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and all the time you will ever have is right now and right now is truly the time of your life.
Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time on the west coast of Mexico with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– See more at: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/opinion/time-or-the-zen-of-the-mexican-queue/?utm_source=Mexico+News+Daily&utm_campaign=bde588eb60-September+3&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f1536a3787-bde588eb60-349041361#sthash.2xpkbSKV.dpuf