A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

time & distance

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 24, 2007

Last week my family had dinner with a friend of mine and his son, Lebanese-Americans both. 

Where do you live? the son asked, in between bouts of marshmallow-roasting-stick-fencing with my mother. (It was a designer bistro, complete with X&O-style make-your-own s’mores on the dessert menu. Those of you who know my mother get one guess as to who said “en garde” first :-P!) 

When I told him, he said:  wow, that’s far.

Is it? I thought to myself curiously. His grandparents live in Raouche, which I have always thought of as very far west. Nor is my neighborhood particularly far from the apartment his parents keep for holidays in Beirut.

Yes, he replied emphatically. I know exactly where you live – in Baalbek.

Well. I do not live that far from central Beirut, or whatever his reference point was. Baalbek is 30 miles away, at least.

On the other hand, the perception that I live at some time-space distance from the rest of the world is rather widely held.

For example, G insists that my apartment exists in a micro time-zone, one 15 minutes behind the rest of the city. My office, G tells me, is 6 minutes behind – closer to “normal” time, but still a bit slow.

Usually I am on the receiving end of these micro time-zone jokes – but sometimes I get to be the one doing the teasing.

Yesterday, for example, G asked: when do we go on summer time?

Well,  I said, my neighborhood started daylight savings time in April. Perhaps yours does it differently.

G lives in an area near-ish that where Brammertz, the current head of the UN’s Hariri investigation, is staying. Proximity proved an inspiration:

Perhaps your area hasn’t changed because it is on Belgian time, I suggested, smirking at my wittiness.

Pffffft, G said, before heading off to London on a business trip that I suspect will include a stop-off in Greenwich to let the time-keepers there know that time has come loose in Lebanon.

Today I am amusing myself wondering what Lebanon would be like if different areas could choose their own time zones.

Perhaps the Gulf citizens who used to vacation in the hills near Beirut would feel more comfortable if those areas adopted Saudi Arabian or UAE time.

Perhaps francophone areas like Achrafieh or (tee hee hee) Qoreitem would feel more settled in their split identities if their clocks matched those of la patrie.

And of course those who see Iranian conspiracies around every bend would keep their ears open for the sounds of ahl al-beit calls to prayer ringing out half an hour before the others.

Imagine the possibilities.

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