The other day I was talking on the phone to a young man who grew up in Tucumcari and had recently returned home from college. I wanted to arrange a meeting with him so I could take a photograph for a story I was doing, and I asked him to come by the office for the picture.
“What time do you want me there?” he asked.
“How does 1 p.m. sound?
As I remember, it was right about here that I started to get confused because he answered, “Is that ‘real time’ or ‘Tucumcari time’?”
Now, usually I can get past setting the time for an interview before I get totally lost during a conversation. My wife has recently contended that it is my age coming out that makes me incapable of handling complex mental problems, like chewing gum and walking at the same time.
I haven’t the heart to tell her that the last time I was able to do those two skills simultaneously was when I was nine.
I have a terrible fear that a long-time inability to walk and chew gum at the same time may well be grounds for divorce in New Mexico, so I am trying to keep this from her as long as possible.
Getting back to the conversation with the college student. With my incredibly quick wit and lightning mental reflexes, I responded to his question with, “Huh?” (I have long been known for my rapier-like repartee).
“Real time or Tucumcari time? he asked again.
This time I responded with a “ahhh?” I did not want to waste such quick responses like “huh?” twice in the same conversation.
“You haven’t lived here very long. Have you?” he asked knowingly.
“How can you tell?” I asked fearing it was because I was wearing two-toned wingtips with a tie-dyed tee shirt that read “Free Captain Kangaroo” and a pair of lime green polyester bell bottoms. I know these things are subtle clues, but college kids are smart these days, even on the phone.
“You haven’t figured out the time difference yet. Have you?” he said.
I figured if I repeated what he said for a while, he wouldn’t know I was completely lost for maybe two or three minutes if I were lucky.
“You see,” he explained, “if the clock says 1 p.m., real time, then you add 35 minutes to it for Tucumcari time. So if you have a meeting, say at 3 p.m. then you know that no one will even think about getting there before 3:35.”
“Wow,” I said with knowledge about to dawn. “That explains why I’m always standing around for about 30 minutes when I go some place for meetings and interviews. Where did you learn this?”
“Well,” he said in a sage voice, “I never really realized it until I went away to college. I would arrive on Tucumcari time and classes would be started or meetings would be over, and then I finally understood.”
“Wow,” I said once again, “this is going to save me a lot of time. Just tonight I have to take pictures of a basketball game in Santa Rosa at 6 p.m. and now I know not to go until 35 minutes later than I was told.”
“Ahh..,no” he said interrupting my musings.
“No?” I was back to repeating again.
“No, you see, you can’t measure ‘Santa Rosa time’ in minutes. You have to do that in days.”