I showed up for an afternoon meeting a few weeks ago and immediately apologized. “Sorry I’m late,” I told the other five people sitting around the table. I was 25 minutes late for the 1:30 meeting. I tried to blame Siri.
“No problem,” said the guy who had called the meeting. “It’s actually a 2 o’clock meeting—we just told YOU that it was a 1:30 meeting.” That hurt—but that’s the way it is. I am the late Pat Cashman.
I was born almost three weeks past my due date, and have been trying to catch up ever since. My mom said, “Frankly, by the time you finally showed up, your dad and I had pretty much lost interest. We had a really nice name all picked out for you, but forgot what was by the time you were finally born.”(What a lucky break for me—I found out later the name was Tiffany.)
I was so late in fact, that by the time of my birth I had sideburns.
I began crawling within weeks, was walking at six months, starting skipping at ten months—and then went back to crawling until I started school—late, naturally.
A college psychology professor of mine once spoke about the tendency some people have of always being late. I did not hear the first part of his lecture of course, but by the time I arrived he was saying: “For some, it may be rebellion against authority. If a figure in charge demands that one arrive at a specific time, then being late is a way of demonstrating defiance and independence. “
Yea, that must be it. I love showing up at the Cineplex, paying up to ten bucks—and then missing the first ten minutes of the movie—because I’m a rebel.
In fact, it is likely that serial tardiness has to do with other things—like poor planning, disorganization and an inability to tell time. I never plan to be late. In fact, I am late because I don’t plan.
Indeed, I don’t plan on traffic being backed up, even though it always is. I don’t plan on finding no place to park, even though it always happens. I also don’t plan on running out of gas, getting a flat tire, waiting for a train to pass or a hundred other possibilities. Not a planner, I.
The great baseball player, Stan Musial, was once quoted as saying, “If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.” Pretty good remark, I guess—but baseball players are pretty well regimented in timeliness. In fact, a contemporary of Musial’s was a pitcher named Early Wynn. Now there was a guy was born to be punctual.
Being late is not a funny thing. It leads to stress, can give someone a bad reputation—and keeps you off most Tupperware party invitation lists. (A plus, actually.)
A friend of mine says he has a psychological aversion to sitting even one extra minute in a doctor’s waiting room. So to deal with it, he works at arriving to his appointments at least
ten minutes early—and then uses the time productively. “I now spend the extra minutes worrying about what maladies the doctor will discover,” he says. “By the time of my actual appointment, I’m ready for any possible combination of bad news. It’s great!”
I think for some of us habitual last-minute types it all comes down to poor time estimation. For example, I’ll think I can get from West Seattle to Bellingham in twenty minutes, even though there is no evidence that it has ever been done except by rocket.
So I now will no longer assume how fast I can get somewhere by car. I will think in terms of a horse-drawn carriage—and figure time more accurately.
Many of us also tend to pack too many additional commitments into our schedules—sometimes making us unable to manage any of them. So I am now simply going to set up a 10 am meeting—and nothing else. I’ll no longer also try to squeeze in stops at a doughnut shop, an Arco, a pet store, a florist, an oil change—and a back-waxing.
On the other hand, we who often ‘miss the boat’ can take some solace in the words of a woman named Arlene Lang: “Just being alive should make you late for everything. In case you’ve never noticed, the dead are always on time.” Right on, sister!
Still, I will always be angry at the Sumerian civilization—thousands of years ago—for inventing the mechanism of time keeping itself. Cave people had no such constraints. “Hey, Trog! I will meet you when the sun is straight overhead.” Easy peasy.
Meanwhile, I will work hard at this, albeit belatedly—no longer leaving people in the lurch, no longer burning the toast, no longer returning library books, overdue.
Better wrap this up. This column is four hours past deadline.