Thursday, August 9, 2012

"To Be Early Is To Be On Time..."

"To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be sorry, dead, toast."  That was the motto of my high school marching band, drilled into every incoming sophomore's brain during summer practice.  I actually added the "dead, toast" part my senior year, for emphasis.  (And because, as a senior, I was quite full of myself.)  This motto spoke to my inner core from the beginning.  It is how I was raised and how I have always lived my life.  When I was a kid, sometimes we'd go to my dad's parents' house for an afternoon family gathering of swimming and eating hotdogs.  It sounds relaxing, but it always began with my dad sitting in the car in the garage, honking and yelling, "Let's go, let's go!"  You see, when Dad said we were leaving at 2:30, he meant we should be backing out of the driveway at 2:29, and not a minute later.  Why we had to be so exactly on time for an afternoon of swimming, I don't know.  No, I do know.  My dad, raised by his parents, had timeliness ingrained in him.  He couldn't help but get agitated when he perceived we might be less than on time.  So, by the time I reached high school, the "To early is to be on time..." adage was in fact already old news with me.
My genetic timeliness worked to my advantage, for many situations.  I was always early for interviews, on time to work and punctual with bills and paperwork. The reasoning behind it is this:  when someone is waiting on you to arrive, it is respectful of them and their time to be on time.  It did lead to a lot of frustration with others, however.  My high school friends had absolutely no concept of time.  And while I wouldn't go so far as to get angry at someone for being late to simply hang out over at my house, I did experience a degree of irritation with some of them who thought, "I'll be there in fifteen minutes," was a suitable E.T.A., when they still had to shower, eat dinner, and drive twenty minutes over to my house.  I would reason with them exasperatedly that their "fifteen minutes" wasn't just a poor estimate, it was ridiculous, since the travel time was more than that.  Mostly, I'd just get a shrug and a "whatever" in response.
Now that I have kids, my phobia of being late has necessarily waned, though I am still the most on time person I know.  When I think about what time to leave the house with the kids, I factor in surprise poopy diapers, surprise messy snacks and surprise traffic.  Regardless, I am early less often now and, even on rare occasion, late - even Little Miss Prepared can be caught totally unawares by a child under five.  It has taken a lot of pointed effort to let go of my, "I HAVE TO BE ON TIME!" mentality.  I really have to work hard not to act like a shrieking harpy as we gather all our crap to leave the house.  ("Where are your shoes??"  "Didn't you JUST go potty??" "GET IN THE CAR!!!")  I can feel myself tensing up when I experience totally unexpected traffic delays.  I take a deep breath, get my shoulders out of my ears, and repeat my new mantra, "It's out of my control.  'Might as well relax."  Nine times out of ten, I get there on time anyway, just not as early as I thought I would. I have, in the past, felt really stupid/crappy/irrational when I have hounded the kids mercilessly to get them in the car with exclamations of, "We are going to be late!!" as if it's a cardinal sin... and we get there early - oops.  Okay, so I'm my father's child.
Where am I going with all this time nonsense?  Basically, I realize I get myself all worked up worrying about being late, when I am nowhere close to being late.  Many times, it's for something where it's not even that important to be exactly on time.  I am working on letting it go, relaxing about that which I cannot control and not getting so annoyed with everyone else for being late, because, as I said before, often it's not even that important.  Therefore, I promise to be more relaxed about tardiness, if the rest of you will work on being on time for a goddamned change every once in a while. Just kidding... maybe.

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