Waiting—Always Too Early
I can no sooner be late than become a gorilla.
Posted Jan 12, 2019
I have spent 50% of my life waiting—waiting for people, events, and movies to begin—any experience involving time. Basically, I am always early; thus, much of my waiting is self-inflicted. Being early or late is like membership in a political party. Most people are one or the other. Being on time, in a sense, has become almost like a religion as well, one I practice throughout my days. I can no sooner be late than become a gorilla. On the occasional day that I am running a little late (no more than five or ten minutes), I begin to breathe heavily, and panic overcomes me. Intellectually, I know that nothing catastrophic would happen if I were minutes late to an appointment; nevertheless, I begin to sweat. My on-time legacy comes from eons of programming along with a “time-sensitive” genetic component. My family’s 'arriving late gene' is completely missing; instead, I come from a rather long line of (extremely) early people.
My father was famous for getting to places exceptionally early and because we were part of his family, we were, by proxy, equally early. It isn’t a stretch to say that we often arrived at a wedding before the bridal party. At various funerals, we arrived before the casket. We always arrived early for our dinner and hotel reservations, often both the table and rooms still occupied.
My father would have a very jovial way of starting our early journey by telling both my mother and me to take our time in getting ready, but we knew what this really meant. Outside of our house, my father was waiting in the front seat of his car with the motor running. It was impossible not to rush, knowing gasoline was burning and my father was looking at his watch. In fact, my father so wanted to save seconds getting to work in the morning, on several occasions, he kept the car’s driver’s side door ajar overnight. Of course, the next day greeted him with a dead car battery, which slowed him down, but only temporarily. After that, he simply disconnected the wire from the door so he could continue to keep it ajar. Time was always of the essence for him. Clearly, my indoctrination into obsessive time management began at an early age.
When we went on our annual vacation to Palm Springs from San Francisco, we had to pack many days ahead of time so my mother wouldn't get nervous (she was a stickler for time, too). In fact, we packed up to two weeks ahead of the trip. During those two weeks, with almost all of my clothes in the packed and zipped luggage, my mother would often comment, "You’re wearing that same outfit again!" The night before we were ready to leave, my father performed his 'dry run routine.' He packed the trunk of the car with all of our suitcases. Once he knew they would fit together like an intricate puzzle (based on his architectural-like schema), he would remove the suitcases from the trunk and place them in the garage to await officially packing the trunk the next day.
In my own irrational way, I have rebelled over the years and consequently, when preparing for a trip, I pack the night before or even the day of (my version of living dangerously). I also don't think I should be surprised that, in a sense, I married my father with regards to 'the time issue.' My time-sensitive husband is incredibly prompt for engagements, travel, movies, theater, and get-togethers; my father would be proud.
My husband and I have spent many "free" minutes sitting in the car outside our destination, as it is too early to enter—embarrassingly early. The Kindle has saved my sanity, for now I have reading material in my purse when we are waiting. The back-lit Kindle enables me to read in darkened theaters, too, as we await the advertisements that come across the blackened screen. At times, we are so early that there is nothing playing ... not even music. With many theaters having reserved seating, I once believed that we would not have to arrive so early, but parking remains an issue. I can't complain because I also like to wait in the theater instead of at home. And it's true; parking in Los Angeles is horrible and if we don't arrive at the theater complex early, then there are slim pickings for our car. Still, there is a part of me that envies those who arrive at their movie just as the coming attractions are finished and the feature is beginning. This would be my version of jumping out of an airplane—without a parachute.
Still, I have embraced arriving early over the years, to the point that I really can't blame my father or my husband. The genetic component of 'being on time' is deeply embedded and I take responsibility for this character trait, which some might even view as a flaw. I am and forever will be early for my own engagements and my own meetings, yet I plan on arriving late to my own funeral.