Everyone has one. That one friend you tell to be somewhere at 7 for your 7.30 reservation. The one for which, when the waiter at a restaurant asks if you want to wait for the “rest of your party” before ordering drinks, the answer is a resounding “NO.”
I know that friend all too well. I’m her.
I come by it honestly. I grew up in a family that was late for everything. We were notorious. “Schuman Time” they called it. There’s “fashionably late,” there’s “late,” and then there’s … “Schuman Time.” Schuman Time is why I learned at an early age to execute seamless wardrobe changes in the backseat of a car while eating McDonald’s fries for dinner. Schuman Time is why I was always the anchor leg in any medley relay at swim meets. Schuman Time is why we were always seated at table 20 or higher at any wedding reception (come to think of it, I think I’ve been to about twice as many wedding receptions as I have ceremonies).
I’ve been known to walk into a 7.30 dinner reservation at 9 (with barely a surprised look from friends that are already halfway done their entrees). I once ran down the runway at Heathrow trying to catch an Aer Lingus to Dublin (I hyperventilated but succeeded), and I’ve perfected the reverse “ghosting” where I slide into a fold-up chair in the back of a boardroom, pen in hand, and immediately start nodding my head and writing notes like I know exactly what’s going on (I don’t).
Ever wonder who actually sits in the front aisle of a movie theater? Big old hand up in the air right here. It’s equal parts courtesy and necessity. It’s also a default as there are typically no other seats left by the time I get to a theater. 20-minutes of trailers is no match for my arrival times. Side note and a little introspection – I may have just uncovered why in college my movie dates never went anywhere.
But. As the late friend, and on behalf of late friends everywhere, there are some things about late friends that you need to understand. Other than our obvious – but perhaps misapplied – intellect and multitasking skills, it is very important that you understand we are not selfish or inconsiderate, and (with limited exceptions) we do not think our time is more valuable than everyone else’s. We’re not aloof or scattered. We’re human. We’re just … late. All the damn time.
- We are not selfish or inconsiderate. Quite the opposite, we try to be everything – and be everywhere – for everyone. Call it FOMO. Call it over-commitment or just a simple inability to say “no.” Call it whatever you want. But I know that if I am invited to a wedding the same day as a wine tasting and a bonfire party, I will try and figure out in what order to show up for each event so that I can get to all of them. Or, perhaps more correctly, so I do not miss the ‘free drinks’ portion of any of them.
- We are not poor planners (per se). We are actually Type A Category 5 Schedule Packers. I recently read somewhere that a “Type A” character trait is being early for everything. Bullshit. You can be Type A and be early and on time for everything, or you can be Type A and be notoriously late because you book yourself solid. I am as Type A as they come, and I simply hate downtime. I won’t hesitate to commit to a soccer game that ends at 11.45 and karate that starts at noon, when there is a 15-minute drive in between. I typically leave zero room for error and zero gaps in the schedule. This has even been (appropriately) characterized as “optimism” – See what My Domaine said about creativity and lateness here.
- Yes, I own a watch. Please don’t tell me to buy one. I wear it. I even look at it, sometimes obsessively. Telling a late friend to wear a watch (or use a calendar, phone, etc.) suggests that we don’t know what time it is, or that we lose track of time. I guess for some (ahem, my husband) that’s the case, but for the most part we know exactly what time it is, and what time we have to be somewhere, we just find ways to make it impossible for the two to meet. Also, my watch is permanently (and intentionally) 7 minutes fast. Great, in theory, but the reality is that I build in 7 extra minutes for everything, including when I am looking at a clock that’s actually correct.
- Sometimes we have the opportunity to be On Time for Something. And when this happens, we quickly kill that opportunity like a bug on the windshield of a semi. We squash it. Again, I hate downtime and I constantly feel like I have to maximize every ‘free’ minute by making it a productive one. So, if I arrive at 11.45 to a noon birthday party, I will try and squeeze in a 15-minute trip to the grocery store, just so I am accomplishing something instead of sitting and waiting. Inevitably, in the grocery store checkout line I will end up behind a Mrs. coupon-clipper (the type that clips the coupons but does not organize them or buy anything that does not require a coupon) so that I end up walking my kids in late to the birthday party.
- We’re Trying. Really, we are. And we’re sorry. I’ve known some people that are boldly late for everything, but I don’t think in my lifetime I’ve ever known anyone that is truly unapologetically late. My typical greeting includes at least the statements “ohmigod I am so sorry” and “I hope you got started without me!” And without fail, each and every time I am late for something I promise myself I will do better. And I do. But, baby steps.
This is not me saying “I’m late and I’m not going to change and you’re just going to have to accept me the way I am.” It’s just a little glimpse into what’s going on behind the scenes as my friends are checking their watches and watching the door when the restaurant hostess asks if they want to go ahead and be seated without me. Full disclosure: I am likely driving and freaking out about the clock and calling my friends to tell them I’m 5 miles further and 10 minutes ahead of where I actually am, all the while exhibiting a level of road rage that would make Hulk Hogan look like a kitten.
I promise I’ll continue to work on it and I’ll get better at being on time. But, if change is a destination… I might be a little late getting there.*
*I started writing this twenty-eight months ago.