“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Quirky Moral Imperative - Don't Be Late

When I was in Kindergarten my mom sent me to a babysitter in the morning before and after school. One time her husband took me to school. When we got there I was a tiny bit late; all the kids were already lining up to go into the classroom. My babysitter's husband told me to go up to my teacher and tell her I was tardy. I said I would but I knew I wasn't going to. I didn't want to tell my teacher I was tardy. Being tardy is wrong. I didn't want to get in trouble and I didn't want her to think badly of me. When I got to school I tried my best to blend into the line. I have no idea if she saw me join the line late or not but she never mentioned it and neither did I. As far as I thought, I was home free. She didn't know I was late. Face saved.

My whole life I've been both conscious and conscientious about being late. Being on time is important. Being late is inexcusable.

OK, sure, a big-rig jack-knifed on the road in front of you and the road is closed; your cat vomits all over your keys and you have to wash them off before you use them; your baby has a huge blow-out diaper, up the back, between the toes; someone is blocking your driveway and you can't get out.  All of those are great examples on when lateness is excusable; it's understandable.

What isn't understandable or excusable is being late for being late's sake.

Other people are important. When you make an appointment with them, you are asking them to give up a portion of their time for your benefit. Other people's schedules are created with the assumption that you are going to live up to your part of the bargain and do the thing you said you would do at the time you agreed to do it. When you are late you are disrespecting the the other party or parties involved. You are saying you are more important than them. You devalue another when you are late.

I realize that may sound a bit harsh, but I really believe that. It all comes down to respect. How much do you respect other people? And really, how much do you respect yourself? It shows poorly on you if you are late all the time. It shows you don't care about the other person. It shows you in a bad light.

For almost 20 years I was constantly fighting to not be late. I was married to a chronically late person who was completely comfortable with that status. No matter how much lead time we had, no matter what time of day or what kind of event, we were always late. It wasn't because of a mishap or something we couldn't control. It was because the chronically late ex didn't think being on time was important.

There was always a lot of stress that went along with having to be somewhere at a certain time. It didn't matter if it was a family dinner, church, kids' sportball practices or games, doctor's appointments, dinner reservations, a flight we had to catch; we were always late. It didn't matter if being late would mean having to miss something, or having to forgo some benefit; and it didn't matter if being on time was important to someone else. It was always a big source of stress for me. It didn't  matter to him that it bothered me so much.

Over the years I did my best to manage the lateness; making sure the kids and I were ready long before we needed to be so ex could get ready without any hurdles or telling ex the event started 30 minutes before it actually did. It worked with varying degrees of mild success.

Now almost 4 years of being single, the stress of not being on time has manifested itself in a strange way. I am super conscious of the time, where I need to be and when. I've taken to setting alarms on my phone with reminders to do things, when to leave so I can arrive on time. Some nights I get really bad alarm clock anxiety and wake up in the middle of the night to see if my alarm is still set. I'm early for everything and apologetic when I am late, even when I can't control the circumstances.

I realize this moral imperative of mine manifests itself a bit strongly, but I'm not apologizing for it. I don't like how it's paired up with the divorce PTSD, but I don't regret not being late for stuff. I don't regret treating people with the respect they deserve by being on time and present for the time they've scheduled for me.

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