The Late Lamented Me

I have become a person I never thought I would be. I am habitually late.

When I was working, I was never late, and I mean never. I worked with people for whom time had no meaning. Specifically, other people’s time. Their time had value. Mine was expendable.

I’m sure one of the partners that I worked with would have “Meeting ran late–Be there soon,” on her tombstone. It would be accompanied by the Muzak you get while hanging on a conference call. Rather than continuing to stew with a soundtrack, I adopted a 15 minute policy. After 15 minutes, I was done waiting, and she’d have to reschedule. It didn’t change her behavior, but I felt better about it.

One partner told me that if he expected me for a meeting and I wasn’t there, he knew that either a) his clock was broken, b) he had the wrong time or date on his calendar, or c) I was dead. He opined that even if I’d been hit by a bus, I’d drag my battered body through the halls of the office, saying “You can call 911 later. I have a meeting.”

Once I stopped working, most of my appointments were social, and I discovered no one actually shows up on time. It’s only grown from there. It’s not like I’m sitting around filing my nails–I’m generally writing, and just want to finish a thought, a sentence, a chapter before I leave, because I know the idea will be gone unless I get it down on paper.

My son has a friend who is always late.  He’ll tell my son that they’ll meet for basketball at a particular time, only to find that five minutes beforehand his friend is somewhere else, 30 minutes away and won’t be home anytime soon. My son would get really angry, feeling like he was perpetually on hold. As frustrating as it is, however, it’s not deliberate. I think his friend wants to do everything, sincerely, so he figures somehow the space-time continuum will fold, allowing him to be everywhere at once. We’ve termed it “hopeful time.”

A lot of people operate on hopeful time. Project timelines that assume frictionless operation and perfect synchronization.  Doctor’s offices that don’t have slack to accommodate inevitable emergencies. Pick up plans that don’t factor in my son chatting up some girl rather than coming directly to the car.

Last night, my son asked when dinner would be ready. I said ten minutes, and he asked, “Is that real time or hopeful time?” Yup. Apparently even I operate on hopeful time. I want dinner to be ready, but it always takes longer than I wish it would.

So I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I will go back to being on time. I will be someone you can count on to be where I say I will be.

Oh crap! Gotta go. Running late.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Kaja Kozlowska © 2008 Creative Commons

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5 comments on “The Late Lamented Me

  1. Veronica Roth says:

    Do you think you might make yourself crazy trying to show respect by always being on time only to find out that most people don’t really care? That’s what I found out. Now I just tend to go with the flow with the best intentions. If you’re late for me I won’t criticise. 🙂

    • Make myself crazy? Ha haha no, really. stop. haha. I would imagine if I were meeting with you, I’d be looking forward to it too much to be late. I was on a hike with some friends and saw the most extraordinary teal blue berries, and they made me think of your photographs. Next time I’ll have to bring my camera.

  2. Kirra Antrobus says:

    I was way too early for everything until I got married.

    Love your post as usual!

  3. You are so right about the social appointments. I recently was waiting–on time–for a friend at our designated meeting spot and she sent me a text that said, “Do you realize that you are annoyingly prompt?” 🙂

  4. hiyacynthia says:

    Wow, “Hopeful time.” I like that! It’s much better than just always being late because I am a poor time manager. I used to be the same way, but since I quit working in an office, it has been the same revelation for me. Most people run late. My teen busts my chops about it a lot. She had to run laps the day I got a warning speeding her off to her early morning cheer practice.

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