One thing that I was pleasantly surprised about after being here for awhile is the fact that the Irish are notoriously behind schedule. This is a fact that nobody will deny–even folks who are always on time, will attest to this. Call it laid back..call it relaxed, but don’t call it irresponsible because no one here will be on your side. In many ways, I covertly love this and empathize with it because I am someone whom has always been accused, and rightly so, of being tardy. Tardy is actually the term that my American school system used…and used against you with harsh consequences, T-A-R-D-Y. If you were late to class, you were marked down as tardy and would receive a detention unless you had a damned good excuse. Which, of course, nobody ever did. TARDY…just sounds so bloody tasteless.
The first time I was formally introduced to Irish timekeeping was when I was going into Limerick one evening to meet girlfriends for cocktails. I was to be there at 9PM and had arrived at 9:30 armed with a smattering of excuses (baby wouldn’t go down, baby wouldn’t eat, baby wouldn’t stop crying, hubby home late, etc etc). I was met with two of the five friends (3 others were later than I!) cajoling and laughing and taking absolutely no notice that I was late. Thirty whole minutes late! Not one text or phone call to see if I was okay either. When I apologized they would hear nothing of it…and when I started to spat my plethora of excuses I was enlightened with the philosophy of what I now deem “Irish Standard Time” whereby everyone is always at least a little late and nobody, NOBODY cares. Whew, what a relief! I instantly felt so much more welcomed here than I ever had before. Finally, a place that accepted constant lateness and didn’t bat one pretty eyelash about it. Glee!!!
But then I started to notice this in other situations. I’d go to a shop, bank or restaurant at the posted opening time and would be kept waiting for 15 minutes for the doors to open. When I finally did get into a shop I could be kept waiting for another 15 minutes while a clerk is on a personal phone call before even being greeted. When you go to the cinema the trailers always start about 10-15 minutes later that the listed film showtime. All of this is unheard of in the States, where customer service is king. At one point, I considered starting a time management/customer service orientation business, but then I was reminded by my loving husband that A. I wasn’t qualified and B. I would be late for my own funeral if that was possible and certainly wouldn’t be able to turn up on time to give the orientations which would in turn make things even worse. He was right, but I might add that, ironically, he is the most punctually retentive person I have ever met. We always manage to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight..he arranges for us to leave extremely early just in case we get a tire puncture or get into an accident or lord knows what else….
When I worked on television production here in 06, were worked on a variation of I.S.T. I had been used to shooting from very early in the morning to late, late nights. And weekends were certainly not out of the question in LA or NY. Here, with the Killinaskully series, we worked 9-5 Monday-Friday and not a minute later unless it was planned well, well in advance. People take their time off very seriously in Ireland.
Nonetheless, the pièce de résistance was when we started building our house. It is just status quo that builders and carpenters are flaky no matter where you live in the world, but in this case the behaviour was literally astonishing. Our “reputable” kitchen/bathroom fitting company blew us off for nearly 2 months past our scheduled start date. They wouldn’t even answer phone calls or return messages. Working together became like a game of cat and mouse with all the suppliers. The only person that delivered on time and on budget was the German window guy, Bruno. At least when it came time to pay everyone we were even put off there. It seemed as though we were forcing them to be paid. Buying a car. We had to ring dealerships several times to buy a car that we wanted and we were even offering the asking price. Carpet. Furniture. Same story. Indeed, these are not contemptuous, reckless people; it is just them simply being laid back and losing track of time. It’s just Irish Standard Time.
I must run now or I’ll be late for my hair appointment.
But sure, that’s okay.