Passage of the clock: Lessons of Spanish timekeeping

I’ve just moved into my new place on Pasaje de Reloj this month. That roughly translates as “passage of the clock” – a poetic excuse to have a think about time.

Growing up, I missed the school bus every other day. Part of my transition into adult-ish life has been learning to get to things on time (even early!)

Nowadays, I am more likely to be on time than not, a fact made more remarkable by the ability mobile phone’s give us to cancel and delay at whim. I am too sensitive to deal with that kind of behaviour, so it seems I’ve become “reliable”.

Here in Spain however, it seems that’s even more of a rarity. The amount of meetings, phone calls and emails that have been ignored or abandoned since I’ve got here far outweigh the amount that haven’t.

While writing the cover story for this month’s edition of BCN Més (casual), I met some of the big boys of Barna’s tech industry. Among them were Luis Cabiedes, probably the most successful startup investor in Spain, and Miquel Marti, CEO of Tech City which looks after companies collectively worth over a cool €7 billion.

Luis was only a few minutes late for our interview but he let our chat eat into his next meeting. As he told me his decision to stick with me a while longer, he received a message from the next guy, apologising that he would be late himself.

A guy who has been around the block a few times, Luis was so self-assured. His tardiness almost felt wise: “The world just works out like that,” he told me. As a Londoner, this relaxed approach makes me hyperventilate. As an oversensitive jasmine flower, I can’t help but feel bruised when people don’t think its worth being on time for meetings with me (regardless of whether that works in my favour). However, if a sophisticated, intelligent and kind multi-squillionaire can go with the flow, it might make me happier too.

Three months passed and it was Miquel Marti’s turn to be late, 2 hours late in fact. I had been bailed on last minute earlier in the day and I was fed up about that too. My tender floral nature was being plucked at once more as I humphed at the desk in his waiting room. I did not have time to waste.

It wasn’t until later that I realised how fortunate it was that he wasn’t on time. The amount of things I had to sort before the weekend had kept me up the night before.

This time let me send the insomnia inducing emails, make calls, write notes and calm my nerves. I even did some research that vastly improved what became one of my favourite interviews for the piece. The value of his delay only sunk in with the beer I was now able to have afterwards. When you are a not-enough-hours-in-the-day bitch, lateness can be a saviour. Now I’ve just gotta make sure I’m always prepped and remember to do something with it.

Most recently, I met a lady called Katrina for something completely different. I turned up at 11 like we had agreed. She turned up at 1140. As serious and busy as ever, I was once again fucked off. It turned out I had forgotten that we rearranged for 1130 in our last conversation; Even I have to allow for that sort of lateness. If I’d got my emails the other way round, I could have been late too. Compassion comes a lot easier when you’re the one who’s wrong.

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