Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Across Time Zones (Sandy)

We agreed to meet our friend at 3 p.m. to go for a walk and take some photos. I got down to the lobby at 2.55 according to my watch, handed my key to Reception, and noted that the clock on the lobby wall said about 2.50.

Our friend was waiting. She asked where Ms. Lee was, and I said it was still a few minutes before 3, according to my watch, and maybe even 8 or 10 minutes before 3, according to the clock in the lobby.

She looked at me. "You measure time in minutes?"

Yes.

That was one of the most interesting questions I have heard in a while. Certainly she knows that Vietnamese have "rubber time" and that Americans do not. Whether she was exposed to this time-in-minutes concept as a student or she came up with the idea herself doesn't matter.

And when I asked how Vietnamese measure time, she laughed.

Yes, we measure time in minutes. Tick tock. Sands in the hourglass. Fashion today, obsolete tomorrow. New friends become old friends; experience fades into memory. Memory fades -- or becomes more selective. Here today, gone tomorrow. You can't step in the same river -- the Mekong! -- twice. Time and space. Time zones. The wheel goes round and around. The odometer clicks over. 

On time, in time, out of time.

And so it will shortly be time to go home -- to check out, pay the cab driver for the one-way ride to the airport, check in at least 2 hours before the international flight, go through security and more security, and then fly east across at least 10 time zones to almost exactly the other side of the earth (although significantly more northerly). The flight will last over 24 hours but I will land on the same date that I took off from  the other side of the world.

Time flies and has flown again.

Hello. Goodbye.

And hello again.

Home.

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