Mañana – The Fifth Time Zone

Sometimes I think we live in the fifth time zone. At The Rainforest Inn the housekeepers have us on a schedule. We wish we had them scheduled around our guest’s breakfasts, check-ins and check-outs. On our schedule today is today, on their schedule, today is sometimes mañana. The guests want their breakfast today not mañana. Their rooms need to be ready for check in today before they arrive not mañana.

I hired a mom and her daughter. Both of them part time. I figured between the two of them somebody would show up when I needed them, today. Not mañana, after I have completed their work. You’ve heard the old saying "all the good men are already taken". Well, all the good housekeepers are taken too. Maybe they are living somewhere with all the good men. Anyway, it is fifteen minutes to nine today and I have 8 hungry people waiting for my gourmet breakfast (which should be served at nine today not 9:00 Mañana) and I am all alone.  Normally, Bill helps me when I need it but he had to go to San Juan early this morning and is not here to help me. If I was into strangling the help, today would be their unlucky day.

Puerto Rico has a very laid back culture. That is one of the great draws of the Caribbean islands. But, I have to admit that when I depend on my help and they don't show it doesn’t seem such a great feature. The other day neither housekeeper showed because the grandmother had a dental appointment.  What?!  And before that neither came on time because they had to go and buy some school supplies for one of their kids. "Oh". I told them,  "My guests didn't want to wait until 11:00 for breakfast so I went ahead and prepared it without you".  Tardiness is right up there with the no shows. Showing up at 8:00 a.m. to help with breakfast does not mean that is the time you set your alarm to wake up. Hence, mañana – the fifth time zone.  Regaton is one of Puerto Rico’s latest cultural innovations and has become very popular stateside. Puerto Rico’s long-standing fifth time zone concept has taken a little longer to catch on.

Bella with her maid outfit on ready to help

We have tried everything here at the Inn to get the housekeepers to meet our  schedule. We have scolded them and we have tried rewarding them.  Wouldn’t you like $50.00 extra at the end of the month just for showing up on time? When that didn't work it really surprised us! Holidays and the weekends are their free time, period. I will schedule them and even beg them to please come once in awhile on a Saturday. But they will not show and come mañana instead. I needed them Saturday of course, not mañana. Here in the islands (not just in Puerto Rico) the workers train their employers well. We don't schedule them during these times anymore.   Bill and I wish we could have grown up in a fifth time zone. Can you imagine never having to worry about being late for work or even showing up on the right day?

Fortunately, for us there are young people who have the mind frame and the freedom to take time from their regular life and graciously volunteer for a few months at a time, with only room and board as payment. And I do mean graciously volunteering. They work hard and do a great job too. They always show up and are on time because they live here with us. Can't beat that. For the past year, Peter, one of our volunteers from the states who is now moving on with his life, was my best assistant cook (and always showed up on time and on the right day). He often did the whole breakfast himself to give me a break. It will be hard to replace him.  He was always pleasant and my best worker and trust me I am not the easiest person to work for.  Sometimes I can be a little brash and I have some perfectionism stuff going on, so I have been told.


As of today, I have given up. I’ll never ask either housekeeper to work on a weekend, holiday, today or even mañana, again. They are now free to live in the fifth time zone. ( I may regret this mañana) Now I no longer have my housekeepers or my assistant cook but I do have one of “the last good men out there”.  Many thanks go to Bill, for all the times he let me drag him into my kitchen to help me with the breakfasts (which is my job not his) and didn’t complain, well maybe he did a little. Now if I could only get him to show up on time, could it be he may be slowly slipping into the fifth time zone too?

All and All I think I will survive. Every day I have the sunshine, warm, mountain breezes and the serenading song of the coquis here in El Yunque to remind me that this is just one of life's minor annoyances. I’m afraid though, *-I sometimes feel the calling of the fifth time zone too. Mañana.