Notes from the Tardy Front

[I wrote this as an exercise last year and I kind of liked it. That’s all. Ain’t that what blogs are for?]

My mother reports that I arrived in this world one and a half weeks past due, at 11:00 am on a Saturday. This is the time I’ve awoken, sans-­alarm clock, for as long as I can remember. In middle school, my friends changed the meaning of “EST” to mean “Ewing Standard Time,” which averaged 30 minutes behind the clock time of whatever time zone myself or one of my parents occupied. From that first dance recital onward, I’ve told my family that events start an hour before they actually do, and I’m aware and grateful that my friends do this to me. One time the priest at the 65­-parishioner church in our 900-­person town made a pointed sermon about being on time for God, very obviously not to looking in the direction of the pew where my mother and our brood had shuffled to fifteen minutes into the service. Because, you see, it’s inherited. I am a late person in a long line of late people. On behalf of multiple generations, let me beg your pardon.

I know the arguments, they are solid. Tardiness is evidence of a lack of respect. If you make someone wait for you, it means you don’t care about them. If you can’t get off your butt or stop what you are doing ten minutes earlier, you clearly think your time is worth more than everyone else’s. It’s hubris, disregard. It’s all the things that break personal bonds and endanger the social order. Except, it’s not. Not really.
The problem is not the respect between the late and the on­ time. Given the choice, I would not select living in a state of perpetually asking forgiveness. I left Catholicism when I left my little hometown, much for this reason. There is no satisfaction in crashing through a door, being greeted with annoyed stares and eye rolls. I know, I know it’s the worst.

So why, the earlies ask, why don’t you just not be late? Well, I’ll tell you. 

The problem is not respect for others. The problem is time itself, or at least, how it operates in our dumb late brains. I don’t think my adolescent friends were all that far off when they gave us Ewings our own time zone. The only inaccuracy was the word standard. For some people, time is standard: a force in the universe, a steady ticking line that pulls us through our existence at a constant rate. But for the lates, time is an organic mass; a gelatinous blob through which we trudge and slip to find our wavering route through from Christmas to Christmas. Time is something we are continually chasing after or crawling through, with all the consistency of a dream.

How could thirty minutes on a treadmill be the same length as a half­ hour massage? A week of work is in no way the same duration as a week’s vacation, or a week of unemployment. How about the span of your childhood vs. the span of your kids’? Impossible. The numbers look the same, but we know better. Somehow, when I try to line up the tasks that will get me from my bed to the door, time stretches out like a piece of gum trying to accommodate them all. Then: I remember the dishwasher. The compost needs turning and I need, need to send that reference letter TODAY if my old intern is going to get her new job. I hold my breath, begging the fickleness of time to work with me, this once. Sometimes, it does. I accomplish everything and still make it across the threshold of my appointment with thirty seconds to spare. But not always. Not usually.

So please, forgive us a little. I have the utmost respect for you and know only too well that your life is ticking by at an ever­ increasing rate, and there’s no excuse for taking that ten minutes from you and replacing it with annoyance. It could be worse, though. Those ten minutes could have evaporated completely. You could have been enjoying a fall afternoon and be struck with the sudden panic that two hours have elapsed without letting you know. You could feel as if your life has been pieced together by a drunk editor.

I would like to propose, though, that a fault in one area can be a boon in another. If you need someone to hyper-focus on a project, ignoring overtime hours ticking by: I’m your girl. I will always stay late to help clean up. If you require the patient, content companionship that only the time­-challenged possess, I will keep you company, tricking my brain into losing an extra five, ten, fifteen minutes doing some soothingly repetitive task. I have learned to control this in some ways and am looking to leverage it as a superpower.

If you need to be late, for whatever reason, I can wait, because when time ebbs and flows giddily around us, it’s impossible to feel it is wasted. It took me ten years of adulthood to decide what to be when I grew up, but it could not have happened any other way. Those days when you feel an all­ night conversation coming on, give your tardy friends a call. There’s nothing we love more than whiling away a few hours.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s