There’s a black hole in my pocket

I lost a friend today because I was late. Well, maybe not a friend … but someone I liked, who I’d thought liked me, blew up in my face to lasting effect because I kept her waiting fifteen minutes.

The incident hurt surprisingly much.

In the greater context of this year’s overall shittitude it was a small thing. This wasn’t a key relationship, and while it’s possible that she’s been pretending to like me while nursing a growing grudge, it’s more likely that she was just having a bad day and I made a convenient target.

white-rabbit late
The White Rabbit – more than just a fantasy animal.

It hurts that she had a valid complaint that I seem powerless to address. I am always late, and no matter how carefully I plan, how early I set my alarm, how fast I drive from here to there, after a lifetime of trying the best I can do is damage control. When I know punctuality is especially important to someone I can usually, with considerable effort and anxiety, keep my lateness within a ten minute margin, which most seem to accept provided I call when on my way to tell them how late I’m going to be, and am sufficiently apologetic when I arrive. Everyone else is best advised to bring a book – or, if waiting annoys you, start without me – I won’t care. I wouldn’t have cared today when my formerly-friendly acquaintance canceled our arrangement. What hurt wasn’t that she got on with her day; it was the ugly and unexpected intensity of her anger, and my powerlessness to answer it.

I won’t defend a bad habit. Instead, here’s some perspective for the benefit of the model clock-watchers out there, and in particular those whose sanity is challenged by us tardies. (I know I’m not alone.)

First, we know our perpetual lateness is annoying – but as annoying as it is to you, it’s embarrassing and frustrating uto us. You see it as rudeness and lack of consideration; we see it as weakness, a defect, a failure to do something everyone else finds easy. We read books and make lists and watch TED Talks, but it’s like dancing: some people have rhythm; others, no matter how religiously they chant the “one-two-three one-two-three one-two-three” of daily life, cannot keep in step with the minute hand. For you it’s easy – you plan your day, you look at your planner, you know how time and distance and traffic fit together, and everything glides so smoothly into place you simply can’t understand how we manage to trip and stumble every damn time.

Well, allow me to enlighten you. Basically, this happens.

Soft Watch - Dali
Soft Watch, by Salvador Dali. This is any timepiece I use, at the precise moment of impact with having to be anywhere.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve concluded that I and people like me have hooked a heel on a loose thread in the fabric of the space-time continuum. We, too, plan our days and check our planners. We can figure out how long it will take to get from here to there, and what the time should be when we leave. We understand the different kinds of “leaving” – the kind that involves stopping what we’re doing, and the kind that involves actually driving through the gate. We know to add five or ten minutes for bumps in the road, and what we have to do before we go, and how long it will take to get our shit together. We figure all that out and then we start our day, and that old minute hand goes ambling around in its lazy circles, and some of the things on our to-do list get done and some don’t. And then our electronic planner twitters a warning … and at that exact moment a quantum cowboy blips into being, lassos our deadline, and vanishes with a resounding fart and a clatter of hooves through the black hole inside the clock on our smart phone – which at that moment typically shows five minutes to our scheduled time of arrival.

Arriving presents its own challenges. Quite often, this happens…

Escher stairs
Infinite Relativity, by M.C. Escher. How I get from here to there.

I’d like to say my new year’s resolution for 2019 is to be on time, but I already have a full tureen of bubbling resolutions to toil and trouble over before the Hubbit comes home. And while it turns out that I have two months longer than I thought I did – because he’ll likely be in rehab until well into March – that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of getting from where I am now to … anywhere at all. Time and space are tricksy devils, whether you count with a clock or a calendar.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try, mind you.

There is no try

Yeah, well … seriously, Yoda, you need to shut the fuck up. Go read a book or something. And if you don’t know by now that there’s more to me than one bad habit, and that I’m worth waiting for, then … yeah. Better you leave without me.

Let’s talk. How do you relate to time, schedules and to-do lists? Whether you are a Tardy or a Timekeeper, how do you feel about the other kind of human? Do you ever secretly think Yoda is a self-righteous pain in the ass?


Author: Belladonna Took

Well into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, perpetually at risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic.

6 thoughts on “There’s a black hole in my pocket”

  1. Man. There’s so much I want to say here, but I’d really like to say–not type!–it. What I’ll say instead is that I tend to arrive on time (again, now that J’s a little bigger) but that I’m not a timekeeper. Thanks to program and a dozen reads this year, I (usually!) know better than to take personally what’s going on with someone else. It keeps me far, far closer to sane, for sure; in my marriage, it’s improving communication dramatically. Phew.


  2. We are kindred spirits in this. I have been perpetually tardy to most events. Yet, I do try. I just have this weird splurge of optimism that I live only 30 minutes away from everywhere. Wherever I have to go, it should only take 30 minutes. And then, time sucks up as I piddle about the house until I only have 15 minutes left to get where I’m going. It’s almost like my personal universe is designed for a different time stream than the one I live in. I think even the bus drivers have figured it out. They started off telling me at the beginning of the year that I needed to have my son ready by 7:00 a.m. for pick-up to go to school. And then they would consistently arrive 14-17 minutes late every single day. I had my son ready (just) and I was fuming that they were always late. But, it worked. I get up and get the kid ready (sometimes shoving a bagel in his mouth as he leaves the house) but still, he’s ready to go. I suspect we should wear some sort of giant clock symbol to warn people of our deficiencies, then they would plan accordingly and always inform us of the wrong time to be somewhere. It’s their fault, really, for having too high of expectations, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I do all the figuring and then plan to leave half an hour before I need to leave. It usually works, but mostly because my Lovely Lady, who HATES being late so much she’d rather sit somewhere for half an hour waiting than be late for an appointment, insists on it whenever we are going somewhere together. I, on the other hand, am usually 10-15 minutes late for everything. I can’t imagine anyone I know becoming quite so vicious and ending a friendship/acquaintanceship over 15 minutes, though. I think that person needs help more than you do, to be perfectly honest. Perhaps needs to spend some time just sitting and staring into space and realising the wonder of all of it. Time is, in any case, an entirely human construct and not one that the universe is necessarily interested in being involved in.

    Liked by 1 person

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