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Clocking in

September 16, 2009

Re "Just late enough to be early," Column One, Sept 12

Your article was witty and full of good perspective.

Another crucial point: The value of time in Mexico -- and, some may argue, in Latin America -- is different. Time there is not as important as people. It doesn't matter that they are not on time; it only matters that they got there. Or sometimes, if they never get there at all, that too makes a statement.

I would argue that time here in the United States is valued and tied in with respect; you are showing respect when you're on time.

What's my experience with this? I was born and raised in Mexico City and am an expatriate living here.

When it comes to work, I have acculturated to being on time, but in my personal life, I revert to my cultural DNA: al ratito.

Tonantzin Oseguera

Brea

As a chilanga who has been living in Los Angeles for 15 years, I really enjoyed your article.

I hope my friends can understand how difficult it is for me to be on time sometimes -- nothing personal.

I really have to make the effort; it is always tempting to fall into the al ratito trap.

Then again, when people ask me why I love parking enforcement, my answer always is: You haven't lived in Mexico City.

Pati Nava

Los Angeles

::

As a Mexican reading the article, I found it a bit condescending.

If lateness is culture-bound, then this is certainly excusable because you can't fault somebody for having a "culture of lateness," just as you can't fault somebody's religion.

However, if the problem is rooted in the system, then there should be a modern (though difficult) way of solving the problem.

To be fair, the article does address systemic problems somewhat.

But to ascribe lateness in Mexico City to a cultural divide -- even a little bit -- is to minimize the problems of a 500-plus-year-old metropolis with 20 million inhabitants, almost nonexistent city planning, poor signage, bad infrastructure, non- existent driver's education and insufficient public transportation to take people from Point A to Point B on time.

Patricio Lopez Guzman

Mexico City

::

I used to follow the "slave mandates" of being on time to work, to a doctor's appointment or to a girlfriend's house.

I was always stressed about being late, until I got tired of taking orders from everybody else.

I realized that I was a ping-pong ball, and -- when the job ended its use for me or the doctor made me wait for services that I was paying for -- I concluded that I was just a commodity.

So I said: "Forget other people's schedules."

Now I intentionally arrive when I want and make others wait for me -- including job interviews.

By the way, traffic is a legitimate excuse; in the interviews that I had this week, both government-related, it was accepted that being within half an hour late was OK.

And the interviewers were late too.

Julian Segura Camacho

Whittier

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