While on one of my internet meanderings, I found Deidré Straughan and from the depths of her site, an article from August 2003 by British journalist, Sebastian Cresswell-Turner. It seems that he had the misfortune to live (and work) in Italy for a few years. The article is entitled “When in Rome, Plan to Go Home,” and I would guess that he was having a mega cultural moment at the time.
“….What is a nuisance socially, though, is a major problem professionally. I routinely get asked to drop everything and do a fortnight's work in one week; and I was recently contacted at six o'clock one evening by Rome's newest exhibition centre to translate a long and complex text on Dante's Divine Comedy by 10am the next day (16 hours' notice to do 14 hours' work, it turned out).....
But there are moments when you cannot help fuming at the amateurishness of this way of working; moments in which you suspect that when the Italians boast of their ability to improvise brilliant solutions, what they really mean is that they prefer the quick-fix to getting their act together.”
He wants to enjoy all that Italy has to offer while working in the Anglo-Saxon mode. Oops, that ole utopian dream popping back up again. He is right of course, Italians often leave things to the last minute only to be completed in a mad and creative rush with a dramatic finale. The concept of time being linear and neatly divided into fixed units is ours; Italian time is a bit more flexible which allows it to be stretched to unthinkable limits when needed (for example, 16 hours’ notice to do 14 hours’ work – I’ve done that too).
Flexible time drives all of us mad at some point. Maybe at the base of the iceberg there is a different way of perceiving the environment -- the uncertain and ambiguous Italian one. If you plan too far in advance, something is certain to come up and you will have to start all over. Instead, if you wait until the last minute, there is a better chance that the necessary elements will be in place for you to proceed – with a flurry of activity and a large dose of creativity, cutting the edges and making it just in time to the finishing line. The miracle of Pope John Paul II's funeral arrangements comes to mind.
On flat land with good visibility, the best way to get from point A to point B is to walk a straight line. On mountainous terrain with torrential storms and fog, the best way may be to wait for the morning's weather report before deciding how to proceed, with what equipment and along which route. Hurry up though, before the weather changes!