DOES ANYBODY REALLYKNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?
DOES Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ was a track on the Chicago Transit Authority's eponymous debut album in 1969. Time was quickly to catch up with the band. The actual Chicago Transit Authority threatened to sue them over the use of the name, so they dropped the transit and the authority, became simply Chicago and drifted so far towards soft rock that they never replicated the dynamism of that debut. Time changes everything, including rock groups, and time governs everything, assuming that you do really know what time it is.
What had sparked off the recollection of a song and a title 54 years back in time? It was because I had been looking for times. No, hunting for times, as they had been buried somewhere, so deep that even after the hunt I was left with the impression that they didn't exist. Events in Mallorca were timeless. Or put it this way, they didn't appear to have starting times. Has it become the case that organisers, and/or their web designers, are so in thrall to presenting lavish images, descriptions of outstanding landscape and statements of sustainability and what have you that they neglect the basics, such as times? Oh, you're given a day (or days), but there are 24 hours in a day. There is a faddishness for this type of website to have a countdown. What is one supposed to do? Figure out from the weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds when it all starts. By the time one's attempted this (not that I have), considerable time will have passed, so one has to go back and start again ... then again, and again.
Potentially, one might feel that this has something to do with the old chestnut of a Spanish appreciation of time (or lack thereof). I'm inclined to think not. It's just down to an inability to make basic detail easily available. Perhaps it's a ploy to keep one on the website for an eternity and use this as a metric to prove to advertisers how much exposure they can anticipate. Maybe, but it happens in print as well. Scour the ad, and one's left fuming. What time does the bloody thing start?
This said, there is a temptation to believe that ‘mañana' as a Spanish concept of nontime still prevails and that Mallorca continues to elevate this to a high art of abstraction. Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, it might be said, provided whole canvasses that essentially mirrored a national pastime - treating time as abstract.
This disregard for time and so a consequent by-product - lack of activity - was once captured in story that was based on Plaça Constitució in Alcudia. It was written by a Catalan, Alexandre Cuellar, who had moved to Mallorca, and was entitled ‘Café de Plaça'.
A key theme of this was what he referred to as ‘blessed laziness'. This laziness, and it was written in 1965, combined with a contrariness that were a way of life in Mallorca's villages. Nothing much ever happened. Everyone would congregate at the cafe, and when there was actually work to be done, a good excuse would be found to have lunch instead. Ah yes, but at what time, given the flexibility of ‘mediodía' ('migdia')?
In the mid-1990s, another Catalan, Carlos García-Delgado, wrote a famous study of the Mallorcan character. Under the pseudonym Guy de Forestier, his ‘Beloved Majorcans' contained a whole chapter devoted to “the concept of time”. He wrote (and the book in translation used the ‘j' form Majorca): “What is certain is that in Majorca - and the sooner you realise this the better - minutes don't have sixty seconds, any more than days have twenty-four hours.”
García-Delgado followed this chapter with “Buying and Selling”. He highlighted “the slow pace at which things are done here”. And so, “be forewarned if you have to go shopping, do business or deal with bureaucracy”.
Once upon a time, I could appreciate what he was saying. Does anyone recall, for example, just how shambolic things used to be at the foreign office? Queue outside under a boiling sun, and once inside anticipate a wait of several hours. My experience with TIE was that it was an absolute breeze. Very different from how things were. Organisation has caught up.
I can't say that I recognise a Mallorca as it once was, accepting that it does all depend on one's experiences. It may be that there still is some of Cuellar's blessed laziness in the villages, yet even these will have been subject to change, partly because of incomers, and not just from abroad; from Palma as well. And there is a general societal shift towards demanding things happen immediately, a product of a digital age.
The lyrics for the Chicago Transit Authority song went: “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?” In a 1969 Mallorca, asking for the time would probably have been greeted with a vacant stare and a shrug of the shoulders. Nobody was aware of the time and nobody really cared. Not now. But they still manage to forget to put the times.
Does anyone recall, for example, just how shambolic things used to be at the foreign office?