He was actually incapable of being late. And if you were late, it drove him nuts. And, made him hot under the collar. His idea of being on-time was, in fact, to be fifteen minutes early.
So when you showed up on-time, at the exact time you should have, in his mind you were already late. It was his one peculiarity.
As a result we all danced to his tune (or at least his watch), in our house. Or at least my mother did. When my parents were going out, my mother would start getting ready hours early. It drove me insane. When we were all going, she used to want me to start getting ready when she did.
On principle I’d refuse. Plus I also knew that my ‘preparations’ never took me very long. I knew exactly how much time I needed. And so, we’d play this little game. Parry and thrust. At various stages in her own preparations she’d wander into my bedroom.
“Fransi”, she’d say, “I think you should get started now”. I’d look at my watch and see that we wouldn’t be leaving for another hour and a half or so, and answer: “No, I still have time.” And I’d go back to reading my book, or doing whatever it was I’d been doing.
The first time she’d come in, she might be holding a towel, having just washed her face. Next time, her eye make up would be on and she might have had her lipstick in her hand, but her lips would have outlined with lip pencil already. Next time, her shoes and stockings would be on.
Back and forth we’d go. Until even I knew it was time. But it worked just fine. I never kept anyone waiting. Never.
It was all good-humoured, by the way. My father was not a tyrant. We were not ‘under his rule’. My mother and I didn’t battle over it. I wasn’t being as obnoxious as I must sound. And none of us needed therapy because of it. My father knew it was crazy and always joked about himself. My mother also knew it was crazy and always laughed about it. I guess it was just our ‘shtick‘.
But in all seriousness, the importance of being on-time rubbed off on me. And I’m glad it did. I think it is an important trait. It is rude to be late. To keep people waiting. It sends out a signal that you have no regard for anyone else’s time. It’s disrespectful.
I’ve turned out to be like my father. I’m also incapable of being late. And when I think I will be delayed, unavoidably, I can’t stand it. And so I do everything in my power to ensure it won’t happen. Turns out that I’m more than a little obsessed, myself. And more than a little crazy. Or is it an eccentricity? You tell me.
All my clocks and watches are set twenty minutes ahead. So when my watch says it’s three o’clock, it’s really two forty. I know I’m doing it, so I don’t understand why it works. But it does. I always think I have less time than I do, so I rush around like I’m really short of time. I also set my alarm way earlier than I really have to. And then I set a few reminder alarms, every twenty minutes. Again, I know I’m doing it, so I don’t know why it works. But it does. I’m always happy because I have some time to ‘languish’ in bed and slowly become conscious. It’s my ‘coming-to-terms-with-the-world’ time.
Maybe it doesn’t matter, as long as it keeps me on-time.
One of my boyfriends was never on-time. He was really, really bad. It was the cause of many of our arguments. I used to joke and tell people that if he and I were going out on a Friday night, I would have to tell him we were going out on Thursday night. Just to be sure we got where we were going at the right time. The worst was when we were invited to a wedding.
To make a long story short, we arrived just as the procession was walking down the aisle. We sort of became part of the procession, because we followed the bride down the aisle to our seats. I was mortified. And furious. That was the beginning of the end of our relationship, truth be told.
So if you haven’t figured it out by now, when it comes to punctuality, I have zero tolerance.