Jeanerette, 2012

One of the things I’m noticing down here is that time feels different.  Folks don’t rush around the way they do in San Francisco. Take the speed limit for example: once you get off the interstate, the fastest you’ll ever go is 55 mph, and that’s on the long stretches between towns. Once you reach the edge of a town, you have to slow to 45 mph, then 35, and by the time you’re in the heart of Main Street, you’re rolling along at a sleepy 25 mph. It took me a while to get used to this. When I first got here, I’d hit a length of empty road and my foot would turn to lead; 65 mph seemed like the perfect cruising speed.  “People drive so slowly!” I said on my second day.

Here’s another example:  people don’t say, “I’ll be there at 10:00″  they say, “I’ll be there for 10:00,” which I’ve been told means, “I can make it by 10:00, but that’s the earliest.”  If you think about it, it’s a much more reasonable way to talk about time because it’s suggests a commitment, but also leaves open the possibility that you might be late without being rude the person who’s waiting. Promising to be somewhere at a designated hour seems sharp and pointed, but promising to be somewhere for a designated hour feels (at least to me) feels kinder and more thoughtful.

So after ten days,  I’ve come to appreciate the slower pace. 55 mph seems like a perfectly reasonable speed and I automatically slow down when I come into town. The other day, I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch but thought I might be a little late, and heard myself saying, “I’ll be there for 1:00”

There’s one other thing I’ve notice about time here: It feels “timeless.” Sometimes, I can’t tell if it’s 2012 or some earlier era. I was on Main Street in Jeanerette the other day, when a pickup truck passed by and three little girls, riding in the bed, called out and waved to me. The oldest girl was sitting on the hump of the wheel well and the two younger girls were kneeling, their arms resting on the tailgate.  When was the last time I saw kids riding in the back of a pickup truck in San Francisco?  Never.  I waved back, and a few minutes later, I passed the gas station where their father had pulled over to buy gas, so I pulled in and asked their dad if I could take their picture.

Jeanerette, Louisiana

I love this picture, but I’m kind of sorry they rearranged themselves.  I should have told them to stay as they were because then you would have understood how timeless the moment truly was; the scene could just as easily been one from 1932 as 2012.  But I hope you still get the idea.  I suppose William Faulkner was right when he said, “Clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it’s being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

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