Thursday, June 07, 2012

searchin' in the sun for another overload

Mexico is a hot culture.

So the anthropologists tell us.  A culture where relations trump quantitative factors -- such as time.

That may be true.  For all I know.  But I find what I know these days is far less than what I thought I knew when I was 22.

Whatever the reason, time in my little village has a different meaning than it does in Salem.

That much most visitors know about Mexico.  They laugh about it as "Mexican time."  Usually within earshot of Mexicans who consider the comment to be far less intended as an accurate description than to be an insult.

My Mexican neighbors and I are experiencing one of those moments.

Last Thursday, I opened my gate to drive into the village.  It was apparent I was going nowhere.  At least, not in my truck.

One of the lines that crisscross our street was hanging in front of my gate at carrier level.  If I had driven out, I would have snagged it.

The line had come unattached (please not the passive note my neighbors would use to describe the situation).  But someone, probably thinking they were doing a good deed, tied it to the palm tree in front of my place. 

At just about the height a person could reach.  In other words, too low for trucks and cars to pass.

I asked the lady across the street if she knew anything about it?  She did.  It was the cable television line to another neighbor.

My land lady called the cable office.  The clerk on the other end was a bit confused.  If we were not calling about the loss of our service (I have none), why were we calling?

Being a concerned citizen is another of those cultural elements that does not readily translate.  The clerk promised action.

Here it is, the next Thursday.  The line is still down -- now untied from the tree.  Before I needed to become a community activist with a hedge lopper.

I can get my truck in and out.  Traffic can travel up and down the street.  My neighbor still has cable service -- as far as I know.

And I am content for having done my part as a good citizen.  If the cable company is satisfied enough to have traffic running over its infrastructure, who am I to violate The Prime Directive?

Fellow blogger Shannon over at Rat Race Refugee writes today:
Priorities are just different here. If someone is on their way to an appointment and runs into a friend, you will never hear “ sorry, busy got to run”. Who knows when, or if, you will see that friend again so the appointment gets shoved to the back burner, so to speak. If your daughter is sick, if your mother had an accident (if your brother is in jail) this certainly takes priority over whatever obligations you may have had for that day. I have come to understand that this is why I spend so much time waiting for the plumber, the phone guy etc. and I am a little less frustrated and a little more forgiving when they may not show up when they said they would, or even on the day that they said they would. I believe this is the crux of living on Mexican time.
I have found the same thing happening to me.  I am hurrying off to meet people for dinner, and I see someone I have not seen for a long time.  I usually stop and talk. 

Most people I meet for dinner in Melaque realize time is flexible.  They do the same thing.

What would be considered as stealing someone else's time in Oregon is seen as a way of life here.  After all, dinner is going to take hours.  We can afford to be less neurotic about time.

But I am not certain I fully agree with Shannon, either.  The cable guy may be making time with his grade school sweetheart and never got around to fixing the line.  Building his cultural relationships. 

Maybe.  I suspect the clerk filed this in the "doesn't matter" box.

The bottom line is that I do not have a dog in this fight.  In fact, I don't even have a dog.

What I have is a truck.  And when I feel like not sitting in the shade while I catch up on my reading, I can go where I like.

Better yet.  I have time.  To spend as I choose.

Hot culture or not.   


nwexican soon to be nwilipino said...

I just spent a couple-a weeks in the Philippines playing guitar, teaching, etc. for a summer camp.. One day the leader instructed the kids to, "take a fifteen minute break," and the kids bolted. Realizing what she had just said, with terror in her eyes, she quickly grabbed a microphone and yelled, "That's fifteen minutes Americano time not Pilipino time!!!" Everyone laughed out loud. We rejoined in about 45 minutes. It is universal and it's WONDERFUL!!

Tafreeburn said...

whne it's something important, like a business taking care of matters,i certainy think it should get done within a reasonable amount of time. i hate to keep people waiting so am usually very punctual, especially now living in japan. but cubans are the same about time, not always exactly there at said time. it's no big deal to me. however, steve and i were once about 10 minutes late to meet some folks for dinner because we'd gone to the wrong restaurant, and we were told by our firend that making people wait was rude. well, he wasn't exactly a friend, more of an acquaintance, but we never saw them again. maybe losing 10 minutes of their time was too much of an inconvenience. oh well, better late than never i always say.

speaking of which, i need to get to my studies. i am having such a hard time learning japanese. i think i have a mental block. i keep thinking that if i didn't learn it at 27 because it was too hard, how is my 57 year old brain supposed to absorb it all.  well, have a great weekend steve. my steve is in korea for 5 days and i am keeping very busy with my japanese friends.

take care,

teresa in nagoya

p.s. sorry if there are any errors. for some reason i can't back it up for proofreading.

Lovemyr said...

I really enjoy your blog and want to take this opportunity to tell you. This may not be the right spot and I can't segue this to your cable story because I am not that talented.

Your posts tell me about your surroundings, and teach me something about people and the Mexican culture. Often the stories make me smile.

It is easy to add a comment to your blog. I don't have to go through typing some blurry letters, or sign up for an account that I don't want. I can't tell you how many times I have typed up a comment on somebody's blog only to be halted because I don't have a Google or Yahoo account.

You respond to comments. I like to read what you think about what commenters said. Everything becomes real when there is a "conversation".

You post something almost every day and I look forward to that. I get frustrated when a blog I enjoy has long gaps between posts. Thank you for taking the time to write so often.

Thank you.

Kimgalle said...

Most of my Mexican experience is in Mexico City, and I have to say, the "Mexican Time" thing doesn't seem to happen much there. The people I've dealt with are all pretty much on time for events, dinners, etc.

Unfortunately, TelMex (we call it ChingaTel) is another matter. It took F two or three weeks to get his internet service working again. Problem? Dead router/modem, which the guy fixed in about fifteen minutes when he finally arrived.

And don't even get me started on the now-defunct Luz y Fuerza.  Thank God, that Calderon nationalized them; they were a complete nightmare.  We used to refer to them as Oscuridad y Debilidad as that was a more apt name.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where people are prompt to the point of curtness.

Kimgalle said...

 P.S. I'm sure that Mexico City is about as representative of Mexico as New York City is of the United States, which is to say only somewhat.

Steve Cotton said...

 Do I detect a change in your retirement compass?

Steve Cotton said...

At church, we are about to start a study on grace.  I suspect your acquaintances could stand a glass or two.

Steve Cotton said...

 You are most welcome.

Steve Cotton said...

Mexico City is different in many ways.  But the city seems to better reflect Mexico's place in a global economy that requires certain indulgences to be abandoned.

Don Cuevas said...

On two separate occasions, we've had guests show up as much as two hours late to dinner. That's stretching "Mexican Time" to the breaking point.

On dealing with temporary inconveniences: about two weeks ago, as we were about to turn up into our street after a trip to Pátzcuaro, we backed up when we saw the massive garbage truck coming down.

As the truck started to turn the corner, it died. After a few moments we realized the repairs might take a while, we walked to the house. The truck operators needed a wrench adapter, so I got our wrench set and brought it down.

Meanwhile, one of the workers and I talked in Spanish and English about life on este lado y al otro lado.

The truck was repaired within 40 minutes, and we all continued on our way.

It all seemed quite normal to me.

Saludos,Don Cuevas 

John Calypso said...

You do have to take matters in your own hands in Mexico more often than north of the border. One learns adapting skills.  We all know you are resourceful. On Mexican time has a number of meanings.

dunno said...

 Not really my call, hehehe, I just try to keep the door open.. It's the Barbarian Way.

Shannon Casey said...

Steve you may just be right about the cable guy making time with his grade school sweetheart. But the end result is the same and if expats want to be happy here the best way is to embrace it, as you do, and not let it drive you crazy.

Steve Cotton said...

Instead, I end up driving over the cable television line.  And I take a certain symbolic joy in doing so.

Steve Cotton said...

And it does my libertarian heart good.

Steve Cotton said...

And there is a huge difference between meeting people for dinner at a restaurant and having people show up on time for dinner at your home.  I wonder if that is why most Mexicans seem to eat their food at less-than-warm temperatures?  They are accustomed to having dinner wait for them.

Steve Cotton said...

 Ah, "choice."  The disappearing American option.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

Oh so true.  Things that used to make me grit my teeth, now make me laugh.  "Living in the moment" is an art that I acquired from Mexico!
What a gift.............

Steve Cotton said...

Ans I always have plenty to doto fill the time I spend waiting.  My Kindle has been a handy tool.  I never quite understand what my northern friends me when they ask "But, what do you do?"  I live.

Andean said...

I never understand that either. Maybe many should understand what to "live" means and they won't have to ask no more.

Steve Cotton said...

Of course, most of those questions come from people who have to rush through dinners with me to get their third grader to her Mozart appreciation lesson for fear she will not get into Stanford otherwise.