There are two kinds of people in my house: the late kind and the early kind. I’m the early kind. My husband is the late kind. In fact, my husband is so much the late kind that there are times when he doesn’t show up at all. Our children are likewise divided. My son is early, and my daughter is late.
Frankly, I think this is not so much of a preference thing as a moral issue, and I am here to condemn half of my family, and probably a good number of my friends, on this front. When you make someone else wait for you, you are, more or less, holding them hostage. You are saying that they have to stop, waste their time, and do nothing just waiting for you to catch up.
There are so many things you say when you are late. You say, “My sleeping in five minutes more was more important to me than your time.” You say, “Making sure my hair looked ‘just so’ was more important to me than the fact that you were getting aggravated.” You say, “Doing things my way merely for the sake of stubbornness is more important to me than your feelings.” You didn’t need that drink of water before you left, you wanted it. It isn’t like were about to go on a barefoot trek across the Sahara Desert and you don’t know when you’ll be able to refill the canteen. The worst part is that the late people always win: the early people don’t get to force the late people to be early, but the late people force the early people to be late.
This is probably the source of more hard feelings in my family than any other issue. It easily beats “you’re hogging the bathroom,” “turn down that music,” and “you stole my hairbrush/hoodie/box of Thin Mints.” And not just between the young ‘uns, this is between the grownups, too.
I am of the opinion that if you are going to a meeting that starts at 6, you need to be there at 5:45 so you have time to take off your coat, do a pre-emptive bathroom run, and settle in and say hello before things actually get started. Whenever the lecturer, moderator, or person in charge says something like, “There are still people coming in so we’ll wait until everyone gets settled,” I wish I had a paintball gun filled with sharpie ink so that I could pelt the latecomers with indelible shame marks. I got here on time, now I have to be here an extra ten minutes because you couldn’t get your act together. Unacceptable. You stole ten minutes of my life. You’re a robber.
Ok, that’s extreme, I know, but I happen to have extreme feelings on the matter.
This is why parties make me nervous. I mean, aside from the whole “I’m terrible at small talk and hate crowds and people exhaust me” thing. If an invitation says that something starts at 7, then I think it starts at 7. And some things do. But sometimes, 7 actually means 9, or maybe “sometime before midnight.” I have no ability whatsoever to figure out which is which. As a result, I am either the first one to arrive, and I make the hostess nervous because she is still in her bathrobe because who comes to a party on time? or I get there after the pigs in a blanket have already been eaten and the good conversation topics have already been exhausted.
Of course, if I am going with my family we are guaranteed to be late. There are whole categories of people to whom I no longer even apologize, because I know they know it isn’t my fault and they are tired of hearing about it.
It seems an odd thing to have a genetic predisposition to being on time, though I can see it in action in my own family. My daughter doesn’t choose to be late: watching her get ready for things is like watching her father get ready for things. They seem physically incapable of doing things linearly. It is kind of like a sense of direction, I think. Some people can just orient themselves and know where they are. Maybe it is an innate sense of knowing where magnetic north is, or maybe it is just an instinct, or maybe some distant ancestor somehow spliced genes with a homing pigeon. Some people can’t go three miles in unfamiliar territory without getting lost. even with the assistance of a GPS shouting at them in a vaguely British accent to make a left turn NOW.
Maybe, like a sense of direction, some people have a sense of time. I can feel minutes ticking by. If I know I have thirty minutes to get ready for something, each one of those thirty minutes looms over me. I feel like Dorothy in the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle in the Wizard of Oz, knowing that doom will come when the sand runs out of the hourglass. I think people like my husband and daughter are as unaware of the passage of time as they are of the wi-fi signals pinging through the house. It’s a sensory blindness: something that just happens below their collective radar dishes.
I don’t know. But just like a GPS can tell you where to turn if you don’t have a sense of direction, a watch can tell you what time it is. Even old school cell phones have timers and reminders on them. Use them. Because being late? Not cool.
Then again, I’ve never been accused of being cool.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.