Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Time Waits for No Man

At the major crossroads in Guatemala City, where the main highway that takes you to Mexico or to El Salvador crosses the road that would get you pointed toward the main square or even the Caribbean, there is a monument known as the Obelisk. It's runty and more than a little disappointing, and in a few short weeks will be completely overwhelmed by the Gallo Beer Astroturf Christmas Tree. Also, as at major crossroads around the world, there's a big clock. Not surprisingly, when the rest of Guatemala gave up on its futile daliance with Daylight Savings Time, the clock failed to adjust accordingly. (Daylight Savings Time was last attempted five years ago, and when they implemented it this year, every gringo had a story about having to specify whether a meeting would happen at the "2:00, old time" or "2:00, new time," none of which matters, since all meetings start at the "hora chapin" aka "Guatemalan time" aka "20 minutes late," or "whenever we show up." Also common were tales of less sophisticated locals saying something to the effect of "I don't care what time they say it is, I'm still going to lunch at 12:30.")

Anyway, I can't say I changed every clock in our house right away. But then again, most of my clocks were correct at some point recently. The end of daylight savings time changed the giant display clock at the Obelisco from being 19 minutes fast to being 1:19 fast. Your correspondent cannot claim in this public space that this holds any significant insights into the Guatemalan national psyche, and if it did, whether it would mean that someone knows they're all 20 minutes late and is giving them a hand, or that someone just hasn't noticed or bothered to fix the inaccuracy.

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