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March 17, 2017


There are really only two types of people: those who worry about being late, and those who are.

I am the former. Our Proper Name is “Type A” – the personality type defined by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in the mid-1950’s when everybody was smoking themselves into a calmer heart attack.

I have perhaps 1,000 appointments outside my office a year, most involving travel and lots of possibilities for lateness. Traffic jambs, weather, planes or trains being delayed, a breakdown of my car – everything that I cannot control.

But I can control when I leave.

So I am good at using time while waiting. The InterWebNets help, or looking at my schedule and maps so I can be early for my next meeting. (No, I do not trust that efficious “voice” on mt phone’s Map App – probably because I do not control it.)

But there are other people, and whole cultures, who look at arrival times as a suggestion, as the earliest possible point of site acquisition. “Island Time” (that would not be in New England) comes to mind, but we all know those folk who if you ask them to meet at a given time it is that given time plus 15, 20 or 40 minutes.

Those people never apologize for being late because being on time is simply not one of their priorities. I am sometimes late, so I send, most often illegally from my car, dashed texts of ETA as soon as I know I will probably be late, to reset expectations – mostly my own.

I am always mortified at my lateness, apologize first rather than say “Hello”, and since there are often expectations after that meeting, I rush to compress my time so as to be early for my next lateness opportunity.

Of 1,000 tests a year I fail maybe 50: a solid A. But if I did not care, as those who look astonished when I apologize for being 5 minutes late, who also probably do not worry about being “on time” there are no tests, they always pass, because they are there, eventually. And to them that is what matters.

I wish I could be them.

The satisfaction at timely arrival is real, I am proud when the day, literally, goes like clockwork. But that “King of All Clocks” moment has 100X the moments of anxiety and guilt and anger over possibly being late.

Over being out of control.

We are never, really in control. Why should the 5% tardiness make me panic, at 61? (or at 14 when I misread the clock and jumped out of bed, no-showered, and ran to the bus stop: one hour early.) Why do I care, when others, often those I am meeting, do not care?

I care because I cannot know, no matter how many times I am on time, if I am OK so I create the Test of Caring where 950 on-time arrivals provides some comfort amifd the fear. Those moments are not just about being on time. It’s also when the steak I cook is rare, but not bloody. Where the the lawn is mowed before it gets “out of control” (and my lawnmower is so good it never can be “out of control”.)

But I am, perpetually both Type A and, inevitably, out of control.

I woke up half an hour later than usual this morning, so for the half dozen folk who click on this at publication when it pops out, sorry, I am late, for no good reason. 49 to go.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat Baldo permalink
    March 17, 2017 9:09 am

    I so enjoyed this; thank you for it. I for one like being on time and would never ‘want to be like them.’ Isn’t lateness a lack of respect for others’ time? Besides, after a recent 1 1/2 year long renovation on my old house, I often wonder if all involved had been on time, perhaps that ‘time’ could have been cut in half!

  2. March 17, 2017 12:45 pm

    My guilt about being late is the same. It is born out of being taught to respect other people’s time as being as valuable as one’s own. Perhaps it’s a generational thing, except, now that I think about it, there are a few folks who I can predict are always 15 minutes late and they happen to be over 60.

  3. May 11, 2017 7:04 am

    Just completed a 10 court tennis project in Cuba. First person from the US in 57 years to complete a brick and mortar project in Cuba. I worked with 5 Cubans and 13 people from the US. Many of the Cubans took 4-5 busses and an hour and a half to get to the job site each day. We were transported by 2 driver’s in brand new vans each day – 15 minutes to the job site. Not once did we beat the Cubans to work.

    Try and live by the Vince Lombardi rule “if your not 15 minutes early your late”.


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