I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica during the summer 4 or 5 times while I was in high school/college. Sometimes we would do construction work (read: try to weld two pieces of metal together using wires from an electrical socket or knocking the snot out of a wall with a giant hammer) and sometimes we did VBS and sometimes we did an optometry clinic where we would get to check peoples’ eyes, fit them with glasses, and wow! they could actually see.
The eye clinics took alot of time. I mean, you might get an easy case, like someone who just needed reading glasses, but then the grandmother of all grandmothers would come in and spend half a day with us. I remember being struck by the incredible patience of the the patients. Sometimes people would literally wait all day, only to be told, “Come back tomorrow”. They would take this with a smile and be there bright and early the next morning. Costa Ricans function on “tico time” which means, you show up when you show up and you leave when you leave. (This is ironic because one of the last times I went, the group was led by an ex-military man who would start crooning, “We’re late! We’re late!” if we left 15 seconds behind schedule.) But even for us normal Americans, this concept proved frustrating, especially at the beginning of the trips. The “He’ll be here at 4:00” turned into “He’ll be here between 4:30 and 5:00” more often than not.
What a difference between Costa Ricans and Americans! I was reading comments on some article the other day (because I think it is SO interesting what people will write on the internet) and a lady was riding some customer service person because “they made me wait, like two minutes” so she “hung up and got outta there”. Really, two minutes? The nerve. It’s like they were asking you to go through labor to birth a 45 pound baby. I don’t want to even know what would have happened if we had an eye clinic in Dallas. Those impatient patients would have the clinic levelled in 15 minutes flat after realizing that we weren’t going to see each individual person first.
One of the frustrations (secret joys) about my job is that we’re working with refugees who are still learning American culture. Which means, that they show up 45 minutes late to class every day (which is bad) and they also don’t complain about having to wait (which is good!). You see, people who are chronically late don’t mind waiting because they don’t really care about time. (If you’re a chronically late person who is also incredibly impatient about waiting, that’s just rude.)
Now, I am not anal retentive about time. I like to get places on time, but I also don’t have a panic attack if I hit traffic or some other extenuating circumstances (like someone else who lives with me and is taller than me does. I’m not naming names!! (Hint: It’s not Gracie.)) BUT I do have this weird habit of scheduling my life in half hour increments. For example, if I am playing piano and I need to laundry, I will play piano until 2:30 and then do laundry. I would never set a dinner date at 6:15, unless I had to, and those trendy church services that start at 7:43pm make me cringe. I do it at work and home, and frankly, it can be exhausting.
When Alex and I drove into Abilene with my parents, we went to a seedy Mexican food joint (seedy but delicious) for dinner. We were seated and then we didn’t get our drinks for another 15 minutes. I know, you’re thinking that’s not that bad, but I didn’t realize that my body goes into “I need water in under 3 minutes or I’m going to die” mode when I enter a restaurant. Of course, we didn’t say anything. We were very nice and patient.
The secret to our patience? We had taken our watches off.
I didn’t even wear a watch until high school. Then, when I bought one, I accidentally put it on my right hand (I’m right-handed) and got comfortable with that until someone said, “Why didn’t you put it on your left hand?”
I still wear it on my right hand and it is my little buddy. I like knowing what time it is all the time. It’s some kind of comfort for me.
When we went to Colorado, I made a conscious decision to take my watch off and just
I would nap when I wanted to, go to bed when I wanted to, eat when I was hungry, and read for as long as I wanted. It didn’t matter if hiking up that mountain took 2 hours or all day. It was a literal vacation in the true sense of the word. I was not rushed or stressed. I was not in a hurry or worrying about moving too slowly. It was wonderful! Of course, if the people around me wouldn’t have had watches, we wouldn’t have known when water aerobics was or when Iron Thumb the Mountain Man was speaking at the fire pit, but I would not have been crushed about missing those things. Not having a watch allowed me to quite literally “Slow down and smell the roses”.
I got a true taste of tico time. And I liked it.