My cell phone rang. Jennifer’s name popped up. A best friend since age two, she was among the small guest list for my birthday dinner.
I was late. She was always prompt.
I hesitated to answer but relented on the third ring.
“Where are you?” she blurted before I could say “hello.”
“Only minutes away,” I replied. “So sorry that I’m not there.”
“No! Where are you RIGHT now?”
“Well, technically, I’m at the corner of 13th street and 16th avenue,” I responded. “Why?”
“Did you just vomit out of your car?”
My eyes flickered to my rear-view mirror. She and her husband came into focus. Busted!
Moments ago, I’d completed a most embarrassing act while driving. In an effort to make up time, I’d brushed my teeth en route. Realizing that I had no place to expunge the residue, I waited until the next stop light, opened the door, and spat. Classy!
“Yep, that’s me in front of you,” I confessed red-cheeked. “See you in a few.”
My mini-mother, who often sits atop my shoulder, mocked, “I told you so!”
Time had been an ongoing debate between us. My mom’s pessimistic view of it drove me nuts.
While eating a one-hour lunch with her at one of my first jobs, she looked at her watch that read 12:25 and declared, “It’s almost 1 o’clock.”
My eyes read the dial and determined we still had 35 glorious minutes left.
While helping her clean out her garage, I asked the time.
“It’s 2 o’clock. We’ve wasted half the day,” she replied.
“Six or seven more hours at our disposal to complete our goal,” I thought.
While anxiously awaiting a visit from her brother, she bemoaned, “He won’t be here for another five hours.”
My mind retorted, “Yippee, I get to see my uncle shortly.”
“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”
― Edward Verrall Lucas, English humorist, essayist and playwright
Our battle over opposing perceptions of time raged on.
On the bright side (and for optimists there always is one), my mom’s temporal negativity means she never keeps folks waiting. She assumes she’ll catch every red light, encounter a wreck and get lost along the way. Accounting for those catastrophes ensures she’s on time or early. People appreciate her promptness.
Meanwhile, as I did on my birthday night, I convince myself that I can shower, dress, primp and drive 10 miles in 30 minutes. The traffic gods will always be in my favor, right?
In reality, my airline-style logic places the odds of my on-time arrival at about 1:5. And on more than one occasion, I’ve shaved only one leg or forgotten to put mascara on the other eye in my rush out the door.
But when I get caught behind a bus dropping passengers at every stop or trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I celebrate it as an opportunity to hit repeat on The Avett Brothers’ “November Blue” and perform car Karaoke one more time.
I may be late, and a bit disheveled, but I’ll be happier once I get there.
What’s your vision of time? My friends and I instituted a 15-minute you’re-not-late buffer. Would you divorce us?