How did it happen? How did I go from being early, to being merely on-time, to being now firmly ensconced in the group known as the always-and-hopelessly late? Although not quite always, as I was on time for my wedding day. This successful grand effort took preparation. I went in advance to the courthouse to check out where we should park, and timed how long the drive from our house would take, so as to arrive in a timely manner. All my efforts paid off; the wedding ceremony went off without hitch, and left us hitched as a result.
As I was growing up, my mother was a stickler for punctuality. It probably came from her time spent serving our country in Army Intelligence during WWII. She talked about her punctuality to the point of excess. As she waited for others, I could hear her sigh heavily and repeat, “I am always on time. I hate it when other people make me late.” You did not want to keep my mother waiting, because doing so unleashed her wrath and a lecture on the importance of punctuality in all things.
My brother on the other hand was always notoriously late for everything. During his high school years, the bus stop was across the street at the elementary school. My mother could see the bus arriving, after which it turned right, loaded the on-time-and-waiting students, and did a turnaround at the top of the hill. This gave my brother five minutes to dress, grab his books, comb his hair and run out the door, to be picked up at the corner. I don’t think he ever missed the bus or school for that matter. He showered at night and didn’t need his morning caffeine as he does now. This drove our mother into a complete frenzy.
“He is going to miss the bus. I am going to talk to his father about this again. Why does he put me through this every morning? Where is he? Is he ready?”
I would stand in the hallway upstairs and yell out updates. “He is on his way. He has his books. Okay, open the door!”
After he went on to college and I started school, I promised myself and mother that I would always be on time. I succeeded. I was ready early and waiting for the bus across the street. When it was time for me to drive to school, I left early. During my career days, I was on time for everything. I never missed a business or personal airline flight. For every appointment I arrived early and read my book patiently. Once when my notoriously tardy brother and I were traveling in France, I saved us from missing our flight home by dragging him to the airport early. He was yelling at me about how I always have to be everywhere early just like our mother. However, when we arrived at Charles de Gualle airport, we discovered it was Daylight Savings. Thanks to me, we were still on time.
Now that I have Myasthenia, I take several medications in the morning to get my neuromuscular junctions fired up. I also require caffeine, not for medical reasons, but for pep. As I had to adjust to life without a career, my motivation for being on time waned. Then you factor in that I now have a dog, a husband and frequently his daughter and it is a recipe for tardiness. It also doesn’t help that my husband is late for everything except work. Even for work, it is a mad dash out the door. Nothing like my brother, but he just makes it. I was late for our first date, but he was later. After we discovered that both of us were always late, the pressure was off and we were both typically late. He will never be waiting for me and vice versa. Life is good except…
I keep my friends, some of whom are like my mother, waiting at least 15 minutes. I am at least 10, 15 or 30 minutes late for all physician appointments. They do not seem to mind and figure out a way to squeeze me in. Except for my tardiness I am a compliant, funny and responsible patient. We all have our faults right? I try not to be late for massage therapy. Balance Therapy is right down the street from my house, so if I am 10 minutes late, it is 10 fewer minutes of wonderful therapy for me. I accept the consequences. I am not an angry late person who blames others. Though sometimes I did blame my late dog Pumpkin who took forever to find just the right spot to do her business. Sometimes I was convinced she was stalling just to keep me around longer.
So the other day I was quite surprised when the Nurse Manager at the Pheresis Clinic pulled me aside to lecture me about my tardiness. A nurse had gotten his or her scrubs in a wad and complained to him. He tried to motivate me by using the respect issue. “You’re not late for your neurology appointments, are you?” Of course I told him I was and that I was basically late for everything, which typically had a snowball effect throughout my day.
“Am I keeping patients waiting?” I asked, knowing the answer. It is a clinic with open beds and in the afternoon there are six nurses and usually three patients. No one ever has to wait, it is by bed and appointment.
“Am I causing staff to stay late or causing you to pay them overtime?”
“No, however, just make an effort to be on time for your appointment.”
Why they are suddenly focusing on this particular topic with me now, I do not know. I have been coming late for years. Is it an attempt to improve my punctuality? Do they fear it will just get worse? Did one of the nurses have an outburst and want to control my behavior? I do not know, but I was 30 minutes late for my pheresis run today and not one comment of displeasure was directed my way. When I left there was still another patient being treated, so I was not keeping them. I will try to be on time as they requested only because they have provided great care over the years. I have very little control over many things and there are days when I wish for more control over my body. It does things that take me by surprise still. Being 30 minutes late after his talk with me was my way to take back control over a situation. I could have been on time today, but I took a few extra minutes to enjoy the cold air and sunshine with my dog as opposed to being hooked up to a machine, immobile and uncomfortable for 80 minutes. When you have to do that every three weeks then talk with me about my tardiness, until then I will see you, but I will be a few or five or ten or fifteen minutes late. I hope you understand.
Are you on time, early or chronically late? How does it impact your life?