Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thai Time

The concept of time is a slippery one, perhaps one of the hardest ideas most of us will ever have to wrap our minds around. Philosophers, scientists, and religious people can’t agree on what “time” is, let alone how it works. Seconds, minutes, hours, and days, none the less, are pretty useful—especially if you’re baking bread or trying to meet a publisher’s deadline.

For the purpose of this blog post, time will be that thing that comes from the past, travels through the present, and disappears into the future—all concepts that Einstein and Lord Buddha irritatingly described as an illusion.

Anyone from the West spending time in Thailand, like me, quickly realizes that holding onto to a western concept of time in this part of the world is essentially futile. Seconds do tick by in the same way they do at home, but the passing of time is palpably different.

Thailand is not a country to live in if you’re someone who insists that things take place on time. “On time” here is refreshingly flexible, and once—if—you get used to it, strangely liberating. Understanding that the tuk tuk you booked for 8:30 a.m. will probably, with luck, show up at noon, or your Thai friend on the phone that says he’s only five minutes away from picking you up actually means he’s still at home across town just stepping out of the shower, is normal. This, of course, would be unacceptable in the West. Here, it’s just how things work.

If you’re uptight about punctuality, then Thailand will probably give you seizures. However, if you can get used to it, it all makes perfect sense.

And right now, people in the States are turning their clocks forward an hour. The Thai people don’t bother, and would probably laugh if anyone even suggested it. “Change the clocks,” they would chorus, “what clocks?”

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