Dinner on Miami Time
The concept of time is lost on most Miami residents. This became disgustingly obvious to me when I got a last minute invitation to my friend Alex’s birthday dinner the other night. It was to be held at Porcao , a Brazilian Steakhouse on Brickell. This style of restaurant is known more commonly as Rodizio, where waiters come around with skewers of delectable meat and you eat as much as you want all night. Quite the gluttonous experience. Porcao is probably the best and fanciest one of these places in Miami, and well worth the forty bucks or so you have to throw down to eat there.
So I am told to arrive at 7:45 as the birthday boy is going to arrive at 8:15, and this was to be a surprise party. I had to meet The Hag in Hollywood at 9:45, which meant leaving the restaurant at 9 or a little after, but that still gave me a good 45 minutes of steak gorging before I had to leave, right? Yes, well I seem to have temporarily forgotten where I live.
We are seated on time and I immediately flip my card to green, which means “I am a colossal pig and wish to eat every ounce of meat you have in this restaurant.” Instantly, I am scolded by Frank, my Dominican friend who set the party up. “Wait. It’s Alex’s party and we have to wait for him.” I give Frank a frustrated look, but flip my card back over to red so as not to offend.
Meanwhile, the rest of the table is getting restless. 8:30 rolls around, still no birthday boy. Everyone is starving and the waiters are beginning to come by with these succulent cuts of filet mignon, top sirloin and bacon-wrapped game hens dripping with juice. The meats are overwhelming our senses and yet we are stuck at the table with nothing but slices of Cuban toast and Diet Coke. And starving.
8:45, still nothing. “Frank,” I say, “What time did you tell Alex’s wife to have him here?” “8:00. But, you know, with Hispanic people, that means he’ll be here about 9.” “You do realize, Frank, that I have to leave at 9?” “Yes,” Frank replied, “Hispanic people won’t eat until he gets here.” “Well, why not?” I was quickly reverting to my 7-year-old self. This happens when I am hungry. I flipped my card to green and yelled for the first waiter I could. As he began to cut the steak, I reached for it with my tongs and Frank slapped my hand away. “No!” he yelled. “But, Frank,” I whined, “Why nooooot?” “Do I have to treat you like a little kid?” he asked. “Yes!” I told him as I slammed down my tongs and crossed my arms, sinking back into my chair. I proceeded to sulk for the remainder of the evening. “Suit yourself,’ Frank said and took away my eating card and utensils.
This soon devolved into an experience akin to walking down the street in South Beach and being forced to look at all the beautiful women you will never have. Constant frustration. The thing you want most in the world is right there, right under your nose, but if you reach for it your hand will be smacked away like a child reaching for the cookie jar. This is why I don’t go to South Beach much anymore, and why I won’t go to Porcao with a bunch of Hispanics again either.
An hour after we were seated, Alex finally walks in. No apologies were offered, although I did let his wife know we had been there for an hour. “Oh, yeah, I know,” she said as she took off her jacket and ordered a beer. That was all I got out of her. Thanks for the consideration. Apparently my time is about as valuable the Venezuelan Bolivar.
The next 15 minutes was the most disgusting display of meat eating ever put on in a four star restaurant. My card went to green, and I requested, with a full mouth, “Tuh pithiss” from every waiter who came by. I shoveled steak into my mouth with every available tool: Fork, knife, spoon, hand, beer bottle. Anything capable of delivering steak to my mouth was fully in play. My mouth was full of beef for twenty solid minutes. Some of it ended up in my lap, on the floor, on Frank’s plate. I didn’t care. I did not talk to anyone (probably a good thing since they were all speaking Spanish anyway) and did not ask to be passed anything. I simply took and ate. I may have muttered a “Happy Birthday” to Alex at some point, but I don’t really remember. And I did not feel guilty about any of this. After all, it’s not my fault the guy showed up an hour late.
The thing is, to most everyone else, he wasn’t an hour late. He was right on time. This is how it is in Dade: Everything basically happens an hour after it is supposed to. This amazingly frustrating phenomenon is known affectionately by the Latins as “Miami Time.” Americans find this term about as affectionate as an elbow to the face. I have tried to refuse to do business or associate with anyone who operates on “Miami Time,” but this is impossible. If you want to have any friends or conduct any business in Dade County, you must understand that your time is respected about as much as traffic laws. This is something one must accept before moving here, much like the fact that English is not the primary language. Nothing operates on time, be it a business meeting, a dinner, or a court date. If you expect someone to meet you at 9 when they say they will meet you at 9, you will be gravely disappointed when you show up at 9 and no one else shows up for over an hour. Get there at 10:30 and you may not be the first to arrive. Because while patience seems to be a virtue most Latin people have, punctuality most certainly is not. And for a former Marine living in Dade County, this can be a tough bite to swallow.