Speak Eagle

Polychronicity

Our rental car flies through foreign streets dodging motorcycles, parked vehicles, and small dogs. It is 7:26pm. I am headed to a theater conference where I am scheduled to perform a monologue in a show that started at…7pm. Twenty-six minutes late and counting.

However, sometimes things happen that are out of our control, like being completely parked in outside a restaurant.  And you know you won’t be going anywhere unless you sprout wings.

I imagine walking in late, being scolded by the director and enduring looks of disgust from the audience. The familiar shame of tardiness creeps over me.

I have been late to everything as long as I can remember. In fact, the only event I have ever arrived early to was my own birth. Since then, I have been late.

Books, counselors, prayers, vows, New Years resolutions, all in vain.

Meetings, church services, classes, doctors appointments, play dates, school. If it starts at a set time, I will be late. Always.

Oh, wait. Not always. A few years ago I was in a small group on self-esteem. The counselor encouraged us to look at our weaknesses accurately and asked, “Are you really always late, Heidi? 100% of the time?”

I had to think about that. That week, I had been on time to one appointment. I don’t know how it happened, but the planets suddenly aligned, and I was on time. Once.

I blurted out, “No! I’m only late 99.9% of the time!” Ahhh. That felt better.

Anthropologist Edward Hall’s theory is that some people live with a polychronic sense of time. Polychronic- as opposed to monochronic.

In polychronic time, time is fluid, non-linear. Us polychronics can do a number of activities at the same time (essential for a mother), and we don’t move on to the next event until the current event feels completely over. Relationships trump tasks, and start and end times of everything are variable.

In monochronic time, on the other hand, start and end times are fixed, and events are segmented from one another. Welcome to America.

I’m a polychronic girl in a monochronic world. Sigh.

My driver parks. I run into the theater, breathless.

But instead of disgust, I’m greeted with smiles. “Don’t worry. We haven’t started yet. You’re right on time!”

Ahhhh. Puerto Rico. Beautiful land of polychronicity. Can I move here?

2 thoughts on “Polychronicity”

  1. There’s a phrase from my childhood my parents used to say when I was running behind on time, “Come on, Tony, my goodness, you’re going to be late for your own funeral.”

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