Congratulations, you’re in a small town! That watch wrapped around your wrist? That circle on the wall with the hands?
You’re now running on small town time.
Small town time is a game. It is a game you will most likely never win. There is no logic to small town time. It’s like an extra special version of Calvinball.
What is “small town time”? It’s when an event (or when you’re supposed to meet people) is clocked for 6 p.m. It’s wishful thinking, because you’ll be there and wait until 6:15, 6:20 —heck I’ve twiddled thumbs for a whole hour while waiting for things to get rolling. Bring a book.
Small town time happens because stuff happens. Cows escape from fields, cars slide into ditches, a wide variety of wildlife decide to commit death-by-vehicle, or people get chatting and lose track of time. This is not the city. Things do not have to be all chop-chop-trains-run-on-time-or-else-everything-descends-into-pure-chaos.
Because, hey, we’re a mellow bunch.
That and some of us are just slow. Which means the polite, small town thing to do is slow down for the slowbies so they don’t miss out. It’s the slowest common denominator.
Sad to say it, but being “the boss” doesn’t even help with this situation. For the first two years of my Sparks unit, we started at 5:30 and ran for the hour. Out of a dozen sparks, only one or two would ever show up on time, and everything would just be pushed back.
So I thought I would be smart, and bump the meetings back by 15 minutes to give parents more time to rally the troops after they get home from work. Parents were thankful. They thought it was a grand idea.
They still came late.
If it were just a matter of things running slow and behind, it would be manageable. But that’s not how small town time works. The moment you think you’ve caught on, it goes in the exact opposite direction: Everything starts early.
And you’ll have been lulled into a false sense of security, loitering, dawdling as you make your way to XYZ for a fashionably late entrance. You arrive, and it’s all gone and over with.
The worst is when you’re given a time range for an event occurring. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or something like that. Show up at 9 a.m. or for the first hour or so, and the crickets are chirping. But take the risk of coming any later and everyone is already done, packed up, and leaving.
In other words, you will never know when something will be running early or late — or that rarest of miracles—on time.
So roll with it.