On Time

I will forgive you your lateness.
Listen, I get it. Shit happens, life gets in the way, traffic was terrible on the 101, you just couldn’t find your keys, you had to wait for your turn in the shower, car trouble, baby trouble, tribble trouble: it’s cool. I get it.
I was here. I arrived at 1:03 for our 1pm lunch. In fact, I arrived to the area around the restaurant at 12:42, allowing time to secure a parking spot and then walk to the restaurant. I actually completed all of this by 12:56, and spent six and a half minutes waiting outside so as not to be early. It is now 1:18, meaning I have been ‘at’ the restaurant for somewhere between fifteen and thirty six minutes depending oh how you count it. You have yet to return my text message of “here!”
But I will forgive you your lateness, because you are simply one of those people who cannot be on time.
I am not one of those people. I am early to everything, a trait I inherited directly from my mother who, as we speak, is sitting in the front seat of a volvo station wagon somewhere, waiting to be the first one to arrive at who-knows-what. One year she dropped me off at camp a day early, which wouldn’t be so bad except that one year she did it again. We are an odd and dying breed, people like my mother and I, who simply are always early. Since moving to Los Angeles, predictably, I have yet to meet another one.
My least favorite part of being the early one is the horrible moment when you finally arrive. You’ll offer some level of excuse (here does exist the rare breed of late-comer who either doesn’t know or, more likely, doesn’t care that they are very late. These are almost always beautiful people.) and some kind of half-to-full hearted apology. And then you’ll ask me the stupidest question of the day:
“Have you been waiting long?”
This is a shitty question. The only not-awkward answer I can give is “oh, not long”, which excuses your tardiness as inconsequential. But I am lying. I have been here long. I have been there since before we were even meant to be here, which was twenty minutes ago, and the bartender hates me because I’ve been drinking water waiting for you to show up. You know exactly how long I’ve been waiting because we set a time and, since I didn’t text you “running a little late”, you can safely assume I was, y’know, on time.
Yes, I will forgive your lateness. I really do understand, sometimes your kid is sick because the dog ate their homework that you left on the bus, and also, you’re always late, so I expect it now. I just tell you everything is a half hour earlier than it really is, that way, you’re usually just a few minutes late. I think that makes you a child, but, whatever works, right?
But I will no longer excuse “have you been waiting long?” Motherfucker, you know I have. You kept me waiting. I know it wasn’t on purpose, but don’t act surprised that I held up my end of the bargain. From now on, I’m going to answer this question honestly: Yes, I’ve been waiting for forty five minutes, and was considering leaving, although, wow, look at that dress, you are really gorgeous tonight you know that, of course I was joking I just arrived myself, honestly you look amazing, come on, let me buy you a drink.