Now doesn’t necessarily mean now

In Kyrgyz there’s this simple, small word whose translation is completely meaningless. If you ask for a translation, and worse yet, believe what you’re told, you are in for a world of hurt. But, since I’m now too far down the rabbit trail, I’ll let you in on what’s been tumbling past me in wonderland: the word in English means now.

In Kyrgyz, however, now could mean now; later; in a little bit; later this afternoon; tomorrow; this summer; sometime in the next few years; or some other indefinite and indefinable future date.

I was at a conference hosted at a hotel several months ago. Since we had computer equipment stored in a meeting room, one of the organizers asked me to tell the front desk to please lock the door after we left. Noticing the door was still unlocked, I notified the person at the desk asking in Kyrgyz, “Could you please lock the door now?” She smiled, said yes, and returned to the magazine she was reading. I waited a few moments and asked again, “Ah, could you please lock the door now? We’re leaving.” She smiled, nodded her head and struck up a conversation with her co-worker. I guess I should have included the definition of now I was after: “Could you please lock the door at 6:02pm and 39 seconds? Oh – would you look at the time.” But instead I just motioned for her to follow me. I was headed to the door, and she was coming, now.

This little word lends itself to all kinds of frustrations, and even more so when it comes as a response. “When is the concert starting?” “Now.” “So…should I hang around or go take a quick vacation and then come back?” Hours spent standing around just waiting for things to happen makes a volunteer go crazy.

As frustrating as it is to hear “Now,” when asking when such-and-such is going to begin, the word can be quite useful when wielded to one’s advantage. Like with this little project my vice-principal’s been asking me to do. I think I’ll start now.

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