Fridges all over the middle of America have invitations clamped to them. And I’ll never get used to these invitations to social functions having end times specified on them.
Or more accurately it’s that these end times are enforced that I’ll never get used to.
End times. The time that the function will end. Not an estimation. Or a guideline. But the actual end time. Known in advance. Planned. Printed. Actually printed on the invite. The time that the function will end.
Not a movie with a known running time. Not a sporting fixture of specific length. But a social event. Of conversation and convivialty - ideally. An event where alcohol is being served.
Mr & Mrs Happy would be delighted if you would join them to celebrate their ongoing happiness on Sunday 17th from 3:30pm to 6pm
Brad asks for you to go to the bar for some serious shots, high-fiving and bellybumping on Friday 10th at 7:00-10:00pm
Jolianna invites you and somebody you typically bring to events, to the giant barn hangar of ecstatic dance to celebrate her 40th birthday and independence from men on Saturday 4th, 5pm-8:30pm
I have been to countless events in Ireland which didn’t have beginning times specified, never mind end times. If you specify a time to begin you’re only asking for people to be late. But end times?
And they really are enforced. Mostly through a voluntary program. The people attending check their invitations to make sure they arrive on time, and to know what time they are leaving so they can hurry home to bed, get up and go to work, and die.
Once upon a time I was at a very good party here in Kansas City. In somebody’s house. On a weekend. No school in the morning. The party was advertised as being from 6pm to 8:30pm. A hundred people arrived at six. Or so I was told when I arrived half an hour later. Mingling. Conversation. Stories. Laughter. Music. Singing. Food. And copious amounts of alcohol.
At a quarter past eight I was smiling like a kid approaching bed-time firmly convinced his parents are oblivious to the time so he’ll get to stay up late. The party was flying. Lots of people were talking and laughing. It couldn’t possibly end in fifteen minutes.
It did of course. Time was called. In somebody’s house remember. At half-past eight in the evening. Beers, wines, whiskeys, and vodkas were put down. Conversations were cut-off, and willingly.
Or willingly by most people. I was actually in the middle of talking to two people I had seen a lot previously but never spoken to before. They were very interesting. But it was now 8:30 and the party must end. They joined a hundred people filing out the door. I stayed on to help tidy up supposedly, but really because I was in shock. And fifteen minutes later it was all cleaned up and I was thrown out.
I never did talk with those two people again. I saw them of course. At parties, on weekend afternoons, early evenings, at Christmas and other holidays but usually within half an hour or less of the end-time, and I didn’t want to begin a conversation I wouldn’t be allowed to finish. Besides, if I hurried home and went to bed, I could then rush to work and on through the rest of my life to my death.
NOTE: End Times has also been published in the Midwest Irish Focus