We entered Greece around 06.30am on Saturday. We had left quite early for Thessaloniki to make it to the city before new thunderstorms hit, forecast for 12.00am. However, there was a huge cue in front of the North Macedonia border office. Who would want to go to Greece on an early grey Saturday morning, we wondered. At 06.30am?
Luckily, some cars let us pass (others didn‘t do so voluntarily but happened to let us pass) and the border officers waved us through immediately. Our question about the crowds heading to Greece so early was not resolved as quickly. It took us about an hour to realize that it was already two hours later. We had forgotten that Greece was in another time zone than the Balkans, meaning that they were one hour ahead. This also implied that the storm would hit an hour earlier than anticipated. We pedaled quicker.
While we chased for the Thessalonikian refuge, I was thinking about the people in the cue. There probably had been so many because it’s already been later than I had thought. People were going to work, shopping – whatever you do when it’s 07.30 and not 06.30am (admittedly, the cue was even long for that later hour).
While I’m used to changing time zones after a flight, it felt weird to me that you could also reach different zones by simply “stepping” across the line. How do people live on two sides of the line simultaneously?
They live in a constant limbo between two different worlds. People in North Macedonia have to get up one hour earlier to make it on time to work in Greece. Every day a short night. They have to get up at 06.00am, hurry to have an earlier morning, and when they enter Greece, they are an hour too late (regardless of the cue at the border). When they have breakfast in the car, they have an early North Macedonian but a late Greek breakfast. Never an ordinary breakfast, no matter how hard they try.
However, when they call home, they have to be clear about the time zone they are talking about: my time, your time; work time, home time; weird time, what the hell.
The good news is obviously that they have long afternoons at home in North Macedonia. Even if they work over hours, they will be home early.
Now imagine the other way around: Greek people can always sleep in. Every day. They sleep until 08.00am and can be at work at 08.00am. That’s what every school child worldwide is dreaming of, this is what Harvard is trying to implement for years, this is EVERYONE’S problem since centuries (since the invention of time, to be precise). This gets solved between Dojran and Thessaloniki: “Tomorrow, dear child, you can sleep in because it’s time difference day.” Every day.
When Greek people get home from work in North Macedonia, it’s even better. It’s too late to mow the lawn, too late to do laundry. Greek people got to enjoy the evening, sleep long until they sleep in the next day.
There are more scenarios to think of. You would constantly be an hour too late or too early. Stuck in the past or lost in the future. Buddhists would say that everyone is suffering from that, you don’t need time zones for that.
I’m sitting in Neos Panteleimonas right now. Here and now. At least I’m trying.