Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lateness (5.30.07)

Nothing is too late,
Until a tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
~ Henry W. Longfellow

I live in an area where lateness is the way of life. I've learned over the years not to get in a dither about someone being late. Living in my neck of the woods, you realize that if you schedule a party or a meeting or whatever at say, 10am... expect people to start filtering in between 10:05 and 10:15. That's just the way it is.

Growing up, I was always taught to be a few minutes early. A few - not too many. In my part of Ohio, showing up early can mean that you're waiting around extra long for anything to begin because all of the majority of other people are always a few minutes late. There can be a ghastly feeling when you pull into the parking lot and you're the only car there, thinking, "Is it the wrong date? Have I the wrong time entirely?"

In some passing reading, I noticed a column where a person raged about lateness - this person felt that it was a sign of disrespect, a sign that the late person did not "honor" the occasion or the person enough to be on time. I think they are wrong. I think that most mild lateness is due to the fact that we are such a rushed and time-consumed people that we try to squeeze every available minute we can for one more wink of sleep, for extra preparation time, for sanity - and some times we miss the mark, don't account for traffic delays or urgent phone calls. Oscar Wilde once said, "He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time."

Sadly enough, I've found that over the past 10 years of this I'm slowly being assimilated into this late way of life by no longer being early. I usually manage "right on time" nowadays. There's an attitude that develops, a "why bother" being prompt when no one else is?

My sister was scheduled for a biopsy on Friday. She's an early bird, so besides the extra time before her scheduled appointment, she was in the waiting room an hour past that appointed time...and two others in the waiting room were queued ahead of her. A big sign was posted "if you are more than 20 minutes late for your appointment, you must be rescheduled." I guess that doesn't apply to the doctor?! She was looking at at least another hour, hour and a half wait...minimum, so she approached the desk, got a bit testy and said she would call back to reschedule.

Some things it is never too late for:

To ask forgiveness
To extend forgiveness
To say "I love you"
To say a prayer

I have to add here that I've always HATED when people show up too early. Say you invite them to come for dinner at 7pm... and they arrive between 6:30 and 6:45pm. Those last few minutes are for a quick swish of the toilet brush, a fast makeup check, a quick counter-clearing, refrigerator wiping, or even a momentary collapse on the sofa.

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