My wife and I have lived in New Mexico for the last several years. We moved there from North Carolina and knew that we would need to adjust to some cultural differences. We have dealt with several large moves in the past, so this was nothing new to us. We quickly assimilated into the Land of Enchantment and grew to appreciate many things, such as the “live and let live” worldview and the copious amounts of chile peppers. However, there is one glaring aspect that we tried and failed to get used to: the mañana attitude.
For anyone needing an explanation, “mañana” means “tomorrow” in Spanish. The “mañana attitude” in New Mexico means that everyone is late for everything. If someone says they will meet you at 7, that means sometime before 8, with a high probability of 8. If they show up at 7, it’s genuinely surprising. And no, you will not receive a courtesy call.
This chronic tardiness applies to everything, be it a friendly outing, a service call, movies, interviews, taxis, hospitals, haircuts, surgery, funerals, the whole enchilada. It drove me wholesale bonkers after the first week. Years later, my sanity has yet to return.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love New Mexico. It’s a gorgeous place to live. I tease the state because it represents an extreme example of a massive pet peeve. I grew up with a rigid form of punctuality, which has been described to me as “East Coast” for whatever reason. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. If you commit to a specific time, you show up by that time (notice I didn’t say “at” that time). If I say that I’m going to be somewhere at 7, that means I will be physically standing at that location at 7, not just arriving or almost there. My plan is to roll up at 6:45, exit my vehicle, walk to the meeting location, and have shoes on concrete at 7. That’s how you show up to things. Seems like an obvious concept.
Admittedly, I tend to take this to an extreme. I have often said to friends, “If I’m not on time, you can assume I’m dead.” Hell, I gave the motto to a courier character in my sci-fi comedy series Max and the Multiverse. As a default, I like to arrive at my scheduled destination a little early. If we have plans at 8, then you can safely assume that I will arrive at 7:45 and park by 7:50. At 8, I am standing at the location. At 8:01, you’re late and I’m starting to get pissed.
This brings us to the whole “ish” nonsense. Know that whenever you respond to a time query with anything that ends with “ish,” I want to punch you in the face. “Ish” is as meaningless as it is infuriating. Saying “7-ish” means literally any time. Since no society on the planet has ever taken the time to define “ish” as a measurable unit, I could show up at 7:15 the next day and still be well within the “ish” parameter. In fact, I so despise the use of “ish” that I have started using it as a friendship parameter.
Furthermore, we must discuss ish’s bastard cousin, the “give or take.” Give or take what, exactly? Saying “7 give or take” means balls nothing. Saying “7 give or take 15” creates a 30 minute range with 7 at the center. Just say 7, else I will assume 6:45 and show up at 6:30 after padding my arrival. And when you finally show up somewhere around 7:30, I will have already cursed your mother’s name and left.
In a land where people are reliably late, this happens all the damn time. In fact, showing up on time is surprising to the point of being praiseworthy.
No, no, no, no, (cross-eyed growling) NO!
Stop being shocked by courtesy. That’s how people are supposed to behave. Doing something when you are scheduled to does not warrant a parade. Being late should illicit shame. Being really late should illicit scorn. Being super late should be grounds for capital punishment.
It’s gotten so bad that I have resorted to verbally defining my expectations. “7 means 7” has escaped my lips on numerous occasions. And yet, people still choose to ignore my calls for basic civility. I cannot even begin to quantify the times I have called utility companies with some version of the following complaint: “You were supposed to be here between 7 and 8. It’s now 9. WTF?” I then get some bullshit excuse about traffic or rattlesnakes, which is rarely coupled with an actual apology. If New Mexico was a Starbucks employee, they would have been fired after the first week.
I rant, but I also love. New Mexico is a gorgeous state, arguably the most gorgeous state. It has so much to offer and I have adored my time here. The food is fantastic, the weather is perfect, and the scenery is breathtaking.
The mañana attitude, on the other hand, could use some fine-tuning.