Irish Time

You don’t have to be here in Ireland long before you learn about Irish time. When a meeting time is set, the Irish will be there sometime soon after but usually not precisely on time. Which is a nice way of saying the Irish are chronically late. This is an understood and forgivable sin of perpetually running behind.

The exceptions to this rule are twofold. Public transit runs on schedule. Irish rail is as dependable as a sundial. You best be on time to catch your train because they leave on the minute they’re scheduled. I’ve watched as a train pulled away while tardy riders ran through the station lobby only to gaze with disappointment from the platform as their train departed without them. Busses are likewise reliably on schedule.

Irish shops also close on time. Do not imagine that you can enter at closing time and have the shop keepers wait for you to browse. Lights go out and doors are locked at closing time and the clerks make their way onto the street within minutes.

I’ve noticed the effect of this disconnect between personal timekeeping and public schedules on our hosts. They work exceptionally hard to, as they say, keep things sorted. Minding eighty-some American students requires a good deal of flexibility and they do it with tremendous good humor. But it also results in no small amount of what we Americans call “hurry up and wait.”

We’re in our second week of intersession Study Abroad. It’s been gratifying to watch our American students assimilate. They’re less demanding than they were just a week ago. less anxious, too. You might attribute that change to their youth and flexibility, but I think some part is due to the simple charm of Ireland and the Irish people we’ve encountered. Our students’ eyes have been opened to all the Irish offer. And they are worth the wait.

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