Carpe Manana

I’ve always been a World-class procrastinator.  For example, I don’t have my college degree because after completing four years of study I never got around to paying the $12 diploma fee.   That was in 1986.  Fifteen years later, I was on campus shooting an ad campaign for the university itself, when I decided to stop by the office of my old student adviser, hoping he was still  alive.

He was.  And he seemed to really enjoy the irony of a major Pac-10 university hiring the creative services of a former student who had failed to graduate.  He gave me a little card to fill out and told me to take it to the administration building.  I promptly put it in my pocket, walked right past the administration building, and finished shooting my campaign.

Another decade later,  I still cannot legally list a college degree on my resume.

Luckily, I’ve read many articles about the importance of embracing the “Manana attitude” in order to be happy in Latin America.  This is the cultural phenomenon that makes it perfectly acceptable to answer almost any request with a simple “Manana.”

They say it’s important to understand that although the word Manana technically means “tomorrow,” what Latin Americans actually mean is the much more indefinite, “Not now.”  It’s the cultural equivalent of a permanent sign I once noted behind a popular bar which read “FREE BEER TOMORROW.”  Manana, like tomorrow, never comes.

Apparently Americans tend to have the hardest time embracing this cultural enigma.  In other words when we can’t have what we want, when we want it, we tend to shit a brick.  Canadians, Australians and Europeans, not so much.  Even Germans, with their inherent love of order and discipline, are reportedly much more patient as their bank teller finishes talking to her boyfriend before completing a transaction.

Latin Americans view this phenomenon not as an act of laziness, but as a lifestyle choice.  They consider it impolite to raise the blood pressure of another individual.  And they laugh inside when you try to raise theirs.  In fact, they are actually much less likely to accommodate you, since they know you won’t be around long enough to become a friend.  After all, the rule of thumb is that failure to embrace the manana culture will have you back on a plane inside two years anyway.

Personally, my goal is to out-manana the best of them.  Just as soon as I get around to it.

4 thoughts on “Carpe Manana

  1. John, Have to laugh at this. IT’S ME TOO! 4 more days for us, and off we go. I was in a store today, and happened to be discussing Ecuador with the owner. A lady chimed in that her son was there, and, as a traveling doctor, it was the best experience of his life. He is coming back next week. Send me an e-mail when you are there, and maybe we get together. I am looking forward to it.
    Ed & Tina

    • Sounds good. Hey, if you guys manage to capture any cool video, or have an experience or revelation while you’re down there, I’d be happy to post it on the blog. I’ve never had a guest blogger before, but have heard it’s commonly done. So keep it in mind over your first week down there, and contact me directly at Have a great trip!

  2. Well, Canadians tend to shit a brick too – we may be just a bit less vocal about it. When I lived in Caracas in the seventies, being 2 hours late was not worth mentioning; everyone knew it had to be traffic or some other inconvenience. More than 2 hours deserved an apology, but wasn’t a big deal; 4 hours was somewhat more serious, but still, no shitting bricks. Now in Toronto I get pissed off if someone in front of me walks too slowly – I’m in a constant rush. Not for much longer, I hope…

    • Today, I was trying to change lanes and a guy who was a full 50 yards behind me actually tried to speed up so that I couldn’t get in front of him. When did EVERYTHING become a race?!

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