Time is Relative

Einstein was right, time is relative.


In Lisbon there is a Metro station at Cais do Sodré, the azulejos tiles depicting the March Hare from Alice in Wonderland – a series of rabbits in motion scurrying across the tiles furiously checking a pocket watch. I doubt most Lisboans know what that is about.

For example, I arrived at my language class a few minutes early, only to pass my professor on the way down the stairs. She was heading out for a quick bite to eat before class. Our class trailed in over the next half hour before we got started. Nobody worries about being late…you’ll get there. In fairness, the same is true at the end of class. We were in an intense discussion of some rule of grammar – suddenly the professor looks up and asks the time. “Oh no! We’ve gone a half hour over time!” She must run to pick up her son from school.

Time ebbs and flows here. It is virtually impossible to guarantee getting to work at exactly 9 a.m. If you are crazy enough to drive, you will be stuck in endless gridlock. Possibly someone ahead of you needed to pop into a store for something and simply parked their car in the road while they were gone for “just a minute”. If you take the Metro or an autocarro (bus), you can easily miss a connection or two or run late at each stop. Eventually you will arrive. Este tudo de bom. (It’s all good.) 

It is no big deal to arrive late, but...

"Não chegue a casa de alguém antes da hora marcada!"

Depending on your schedule, lunch is either a quick bifana (pork sandwich) at a lunch counter, or a 2-hour affair in the “relaxed” service of any local restaurant. Following lunch, (which stops being served at 2 – 2:30 p.m.) most outdoor activities stop in the heat of the day, and don’t pick back up until after about 4:30 p.m. Restaurants, except those catering to tourists, do not open their doors between 2:30 and 6:30/7:00 p.m. You will be seated for dinner between 7 – 9/9:30 p.m., although you may end up at the restaurant until well after 11 p.m. finishing up your café and sobremesa (dessert), and finally asking the waiter to bring you the bill – note, they will not bring the bill until you ask for it. Bars, however, stay open late. It is possible, in fact, to drink your way down Bairro Alto, closing down the “late” bars and end up at Pink Street just as the “early” bars are opening there… though I wouldn’t recommend it!

Civic events can also go on later here – as we learned from the outdoor concert that ended at 4 a.m. in Coimbra and the fireworks in the middle of town at 2 a.m. in Lisbon. Celebrations following the Benfica football (soccer) team winning their league go on for days! Even families with small children can be found out enjoying the night air at 11 p.m. 

You avoid the heat, you enjoy the night…you adjust. You also learn to plan for meals at the times that restaurants are open if you are looking for something more substantial than tapas.

Este todo bem.

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