Sunday, August 30, 2015

Please Have Mercy on the Chronically Late

Dear All Chronically Punctual People,

Please have mercy on us chronically late.  Please.  Please. Please.

I've read a few posts and articles lately that seem to be unjustly harsh on those of us are late. 

I'm definitely one of those chronically late people,  I typically run between 5-30 minutes behind.

Yes....I SHOULD be on time.

Yes...I COULD make more of an effort.

Should, could, should, could, should could, should, could. 

People who aren't chronically late tend to think poorly of people that are.  We've been called, selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible or all sorts of other horrible things.

None, of which are true.  Most of the people I know who are chronically late are very nice, unselfish, caring people. 

We just tend to have a few characteristics.

We are overly optimistic about time and try to fit too many tasks into too short a time. I definitely fall into this category.  So do my parents. I have very distinct memories of a kid as going someplace and waiting for my mom to be ready, and she would be doing something and be all "I'm just using my marginal minutes."  The problem is that then everyone is just using their marginal minutes and then the whole family is late. 

This is the number one reason I am always late.  I'm always trying to finish just one more thing, cram one more task in, do one more thing before I go.  Just finish this one post, or email or washing the dishes or sweeping the floor or correcting a school subject or work-out..  

We live one block away from our parish, and so try to attend daily Mass a few times a week. I'm usually late.  Why?  Because I think that I can somehow wake up at 7:00 and fit in nursing the toddler, working out,checking email, changing clothes, throwing in a load of laundry, starting the dishwasher, drinking water and sometimes a quick shower..all before 8:10 AM.  Wow...that seems like a lot.  But, I really feel very strongly about getting all that done....and....I figure better late than never. I can just quietly slip in the back...right?  I know, I know..I need to work on it.  

I know, I know...I could just get up earlier.  It doesn't work that way if I get up earlier, I just try to fit more things in. 

We are easily distractible.  It's easy to lose track of time.  We're on our way out the door when we notice the dirty towel on the we walk the tower to the hamper,...then we notice the toilet is starting to look yellow so we give it a quick scrub.  On our way back to the door, we pick up 3 pencils, check the mail, notice dirty counters, give them a quick wipe, grab a drink of water and visit the bathroom.  And now, we're late. 

We are poor judges of time. If I think that it takes 20 minutes to get someplace, I will leave 20 minutes before we have to get there.  Unfortunately, this doesn't take into account loading time and unloading time and walking into the building time.  I just can't get it through my head that I need to account for that time.   I forget to account for things like putting on my shoes, locking the door, fumbling through my bag for my keys.  And never mind kids...someone can't find their shoes or has to go potty. 

We hate idle-time.  If I look at the clock and think I have 10 minutes left before we have to go...then I start to do something.  Except that something takes 12 minutes and, I forgot to account for loading time and we're late. 

I know that intellectually I need to leave more time for leaving, but it's hard to remember that in the moment when I just want to do one more thing. 

We forget to account for the unknown.  Getting lost, finding a parking space, traffic tie-ups. We honestly forget that those things take time, so we don't account for them. 

We have a fear of being early or being the first one there.  Maybe this isn't a factor with other people, but it is with me.  I don't mind being late, but I have a fear of being early. I tend to find being the first one there to feel a bit socially awkward and weird.  So, I tend to err on the side of being late.  I know that seems crazy...but that is how I think. 

I've also had some bad experiences with being early.  For example, this summer we were early to swimming lessons one day.  I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but the lessons started at 10:00 AM, and the only way to get to the pool was to walk through the locker rooms.   Unfortunately, the pool kept the doors between the pool and changing room locked until precisely at 10:00 AM when they were opened.  This would have been fine if I just had girls with me.  But, I had my 7-year old son.  A boy who does NOT want to walk through the women's locker room to get to the pool.  Normally, it's not a problem if we get there after the doors are opened.  He just walks through (already changed).  However, that one time we got there and the doors were locked, he had to wait in the changing rooms.  Except he didn't wait...he walked back out and was a bit confused and starting wandering around the park lost, until I found him.  That was a bit scary. Of course, once I knew about  the locked doors, I could explain to him that he just had to wait.  But, I'm also less comfortable with a 7-year old boy waiting by himself in a locker room, then him just walking through quickly on the way to the pool. 

We honestly don't think anyone is bothered by us being late.  I still believe that most of the time.  All these harsh articles claim that late people are SO disruptive and EVERYONE has to wait for them. Well in my defense, I am (usually) only late to places where I don't feel I am putting anyone out.  I honestly don't think it should bother anyone if we sneak into the back of Mass 5 minutes late, or my child joins swimming lessons 8 minutes after it started, or I walk 10 minutes late to a meeting that has already started or my child is 10 minutes late to an activity or we arrive at the park 30 minutes after we had planned.  I don't expect anyone to wait for me/us.  I fully realize and take responsibility for the fact that we might miss something.  We just quietly slip in/ join in.  No big deal

I'm not bothered when people arrive late, so I don't really understand that other people are bothered by it. 

However, I DO make more of an effort in situations where I DO think I would be inconveniencing someone.....where someone would be waiting specifically for me.  Say if I was meeting someone at a restaurant or for a car pool or if I was picking my child up from an activity.  If someone would have to wait for me or with my child, I make a point of being there on time.

However, I think that MOST places we go, people do not wait for me. The start of an activity does not depend on my arrival.  I'm not that important, so I try not to stress about it.

While we are bothered by being late, we are also bothered by other things.  Like leaving our house when it's a mess, not finishing what we started or leaving with children that have messy hair or dirty clothes or forgetting something important.  Those things are bothersome too.  Sometimes it's a matter of being on time, or leaving the house tidy and with clean children or forgetting my phone. The tidy house and clean children and retrieved phone usually win out. 

We ARE trying to change.  Overcoming the habit of being chronically late is often a matter of two steps forward, one step back.   Late people don't really want to be late.  We honestly feel bad about it.  However, we tend to perceive time differently, be a bit distractible and be overly concerned with productivity. 

What about you?  I know I'm not the only one who struggles with lateness.  Any tips for overcoming it?
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