There are a lot of really great things that I inherited from my dad. My awesome sense of direction, almost perfect eyesight, and really long legs, to name a few.
Unfortunately, his ability to arrive places on time is NOT a trait that he passed on to me. My habitual lateness comes from my mother.
Using logic (also inherited from my father, the physicist), my dad is on time for everything he does and my mom is ten minutes late for everything she does, so logically I should be five minutes late for everything I do.
But I’m not.
I’m a solid 15 minutes late. For everything. Every day. All the time.
It’s not even that I’m chronically RUNNING late. I’m completely and utterly chronically incapable of arriving anywhere on time (unless Bruce Springsteen is scheduled to be somewhere, in which case I will be there several hours early. But I’ll still get there 15 minutes later than I planned to be there).
I almost never TRY to be late for anything. And it’s not that I’m insensitive to wasting other people’s time. I hate it when people keep me waiting, and I hate knowing that I’m keeping other people waiting. So when I’m late, I’m ALWAYS upset about it and exceptionally apologetic. But somehow I still can’t manage to get anywhere on time.
My new year’s resolution most years is to try to stop being late (except for the year when I resolved to stop making faces when I see really ugly people. I never had a chance of keeping that one). And in trying to solve this problem, I realized that there are two inevitable facts of my life that prevent me from arriving anywhere on time.
Inevitable fact number 1: I have no concept of how long it takes me to do anything. When I have to get up in the morning, I carefully calculate exactly how long every step of my morning routine will take me, then factor that time in, plus a little extra cushion time.
But nothing ever takes the amount of time that I think it will. And then I’m late. And there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. Because of the second inevitable fact.
Inevitable fact number 2: if I leave early for something, the universe will conspire against me to make me late.
This happened to me last week. I had forgotten to do my Xeroxing for first period the day before, and therefore got up early to get to school early. And, miracle of miracles, I got out of the house early! I was so proud of myself when I got down to my car and realized that I had plenty of time to get there and copy the rubric for the assignment I was giving.
It didn’t go down that way.
Instead, as I drove the one mile to the highway, I got stuck in a never-ending line of traffic, which I eventually realized was caused by a flashing yellow traffic light. Now it’s been a few years since I took my driver’s test, but I’m pretty sure that flashing yellow means proceed with caution, NOT treat the intersection as a four-way stop. But somehow EVERY single other driver on the road that day missed that memo, so a part of the drive that normally takes me two minutes took me twenty instead.
I’m amazed my head didn’t explode.
Eventually I got to 270, figuring that I would be able to make up some of the time I had lost.
I accelerated toward the speed limit and glanced in my rearview mirror, only to see a state trooper behind me. Close enough behind me, in fact, that I could see his eye color and the little spot that he had missed when he shaved that morning. And despite every other driver zipping past me and probably arriving at work on time, my buddy the state trooper stayed about a centimeter from my bumper the ENTIRE eleven miles on 270.
And when I finally got off 270, I missed every single light. Some of them multiple times.
By the time I ran into the school, it was about thirty seconds before the bell rang to start first period, meaning that by leaving early for work, I got there WAY LATER than I ever have when I’ve left the house late in the morning.
And as if I wasn’t stressed out enough by the ride to work from hell, my principal was standing in the hallway right outside my classroom when I got there.
The moral of this story is that I can’t win. I will be late for everything no matter what I do to avoid it. So I may as well get those extra ten minutes of sleep in the morning. And if you need me to get somewhere at a certain time, tell me I need to be there fifteen minutes earlier than you actually need me to be there.
Just don’t tell me that you’re doing that. Because then I’ll be even later. It’s just the way my world works.