My father always took punctuality quite seriously. He was fond of saying, “If you arrive right on time, you’re late.”
For example, if he were invited to someone’s house for dinner at 6:00 pm on a Wednesday evening, he would try to arrive by, say, noon on Tuesday. “Better to be a little early than a minute late,” was his motto. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
If we invited my parents over for dinner at 7:00pm, he would make a mental note to leave his house (about five minutes away) at 6:30. But by the next day, he would recall the invitation having been for 6:30 and would say, “We better plan to leave by 6:00pm.” I recall at least one occasion when they arrived for dinner just as we were clearing away the breakfast dishes! I don’t think he ever got over the ill-considered sarcastic comment I made upon his arrival.
When we would return home for a weekend visit, he would immediately begin asking us what we wanted to plan for the following day. “I really don’t have any plans, just want to visit with you and mom.”
He would nod and then about ten minutes later ask, “So, what do you want to do tomorrow?”
After about three iterations of this I would blurt out, “Let’s go to the mall,” just to satisfy his need for a plan.
He would nod and then ask, “So, what time do you want to go?”
“How about 11:00 a.m.?” I replied.
The next morning, he would be having his coffee as everyone begin to rise. By 8:00, he would start saying, “Better start getting ready if we’re going to be there by 11:00.” Since it didn’t matter if we even went, it certainly didn’t matter whether or not we arrived on schedule but after his tenth reminder, everyone would plod off to get ready.
Upon entering the mall at 10:55, he would glance at his watch. “Right on time,” he would say before heading for the food court to have coffee. I’m not a big shopper so I would join him in 10-15 minutes at which time he would ask, “So, when we heading home.” As the rest of the family would eventually show up he would continue to ask until we exited the mall and headed back.
Once we were home, he would fix another cup of coffee and ask, “So, what do you want to do now?”
I will admit that I inherited at least some of his concern over timeliness, and am rarely late. I’ve always thought it rude not to be punctual. To me, it’s like telling the person you’re meeting that their time has no value. My wife, on the other hand, has a far more cavalier attitude, at least in the past.
If we agree to leave on a trip at noon on a Saturday in May, in her mind this means that she best be ready by at least 1pm on a Saturday in September. This has been the source of a great deal of marital discord. That is, until I made the conscious decision not to complain. Now I just beat my head against the wall until I enter a semi-conscious state, thereby relieving the stress by the time she’s finally ready to go.
Seriously, my complaining obviously has no effect on making us magically be on time. And it certainly has no effect whatsoever on her timeliness (or lack thereof) the next time. So, I’ve begun a practice in which I get dressed and then just sit down to read a book until she’s finally ready. I read War and Peace in one week this way.
The thing that really annoys me is when she waits until ten minutes before our agreed departure time to begin getting ready, a process generally requiring one to two days. Then, since I’m ready to go, I become her man-servant (or is it woman-servant?), and I’m assigned various tasks to assist her in the process of getting dressed.
On occasion, I might ask her to straighten my collar when putting on my tie. Later when she’s running a half hour or so late, she’ll remark, “Well, I did have to stop what I was doing to help with your tie.”
The medical profession seems to have the worst attitude regarding punctuality. “Mr. Flabergeister, we’ve got you down for your next appointment at 11:00am, September 24th. Now, please try to arrive 2-3 months early to fill out any paperwork. We promise to have you out of here by November.”
Another thing about time is how the rate at which it passes varies so much. As a child, Christmas Eve always seemed to last for a month. Yet, when I woke up on a school day during final exams, it seemed like I would brush my teeth, blink, and I was already in class hearing those dreaded words, “Okay, put your books away and take out a pencil.”
During a boring presentation or concert, I’ll sit for what seems like an hour, and when I’m certain that it must be about over, I’ll look at my watch to find that only 40 seconds have passed.
I have no concept of the passage of time and it drives me crazy not to be able to check the time, so I’ve always worn a watch. Of course, sometimes I’ll look at my watch 15 times in ten minutes … and then still not know what time it is.
My business partner, Ernest, on the other hand, has never worn a watch yet has the uncanny ability to estimate what time of day it is with remarkable accuracy.
As I get older, it seems that time passes much more quickly. Oftentimes, I wish that it were possible to turn back the hands of time. Oh, to be back in school knowing what I know today …
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
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