Thinking about Time

I know there is a science and history to time. To me things like ‘time is linear’, and tesseracts that take you from one point in space and time to another instantaneously, make me feel like time is a much less concrete thing than we have made it be.

I have worked with different people over the years and had friends from different countries, so I have seen how different cultures and geographical locations deal with time as a concept. Some view it as a fluid continuum and think nothing of arriving at agreed upon places and times an hour later than I do, and they are genuinely surprised to find I have been waiting. Every time, no less. I have other friends who believe being late for an agreed upon time is rude and so they are extremely punctual, if not early, to everything we do.

Neither group is wrong. Time is something you agree on with people, and that is what it means to you. In the desert of Morocco, the Bedouins don’t worry about time; they do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Yes, I have a friend who is a Moroccan Bedouin, and he is lovely, but our perception of time is definitely different. He can’t seem to wrap his head around my work schedule and I can’t quite relax into his schedule being around when he has tourists coming to go out into the desert with him. I also have a friend who is from Spain and she is used to a break in her afternoon to rest and dinner very late at night. When my friends schedule lunch, when they are in town from Germany, I know it is going to be at exactly the time they have told me. When my Dominican friends invite me to a Quincinera, I know not to show up until at least a half an hour after the time on the invitation, and even then I know I’ll be early. If I come on time, I’ll be sitting there alone. Which has happened, and I learned to adjust my expectations because it wasn’t a lack of respect for my time but rather a cultural norm.

I think that is my main point, or thought, or reflection…whichever it is. Or maybe it’s all three. That time is not a concrete thing, but rather an agreed upon frame of reference. When you are waiting for an appointment you want the person to agree with what you understand, but when you are lazing on the beach on a day off, you don’t particularly care when the ice cream truck comes, just that it comes so you can enjoy a treat. Time is, to my mind at least, relative. Sometimes it matters that the world works the way you do, and sometimes it just doesn’t.

So here is what confuses me about time. Given all of this, why do people get so mad about it? Schools mark you tardy, work docks your pay, those make sense to me because there is a structure to them that requires participation at certain times. But if the doctor is running fifteen minutes late? That probably means she had someone who needed more time. Why would I get mad that someone needed medical advice while they were at the doctor’s office? Seems like exactly the place to discuss your issues until you get an answer. Sure, it’s mildly annoying to wait, but don’t you want the doctor to spend time with you when you have something you need help with?

Why do we get so upset when our version of how the world should work doesn’t agree with other people’s? What makes us think our version is the only correct one? Thinking about our perception of time and how it affects our lives makes me wonder if there are people I know who are really bothered by this and people who aren’t. How do they even get along? I know that I am an, ‘on time or a few minutes early’ kind of person, but that I sometimes misjudge traffic or get stuck behind a city bus. Are there people secretly furious at me for being late? I don’t know. Now that I’m thinking about it, I certainly hope not.

But here’s the thing, if they are furious, there is nothing I can do about it. I make every effort to safely arrive on time. I won’t get into an accident or get a ticket to keep someone from being angry that I’m late. Now if I was just running slow because I didn’t budget my time well, that would be different. At least to me. Sticky spot, right? Even that is my opinion, so it’s something I can only absolutely count on being true when I’m the only person involved. Convoluted, right? It’s harder to sort out than it sounds when you stop and think about it.

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