I am respectful by nature. But I am also almost always late. This pains me because I am sure my tardiness is often read as disrespect by those who observe it or are left waiting by it. So, if you’ll give me a moment of your well-managed time, I’d like to explain the mechanics behind my oft tardy but ever respectful contradictory nature.
How It Happens
I suspect I speak for many well meaning tardies. It boils down to the fact that I am an optimist. I am optimistic about everything. When I buy lottery tickets (although infrequent), I am genuinely surprised when I don’t win. And I can’t believe I don’t own at least two HGTV Dream Homes by now. Don’t get me wrong. I am not unaware of the odds stacked against any one person in these scenarios. I understand probability and statistics. And yet, I think I’ll beat the odds. My optimism extends to everything in my life including time. I always think I can accomplish more in a given unit of time than I actually can. Couple optimism with the fact that I am a multi tasker with no patience for unintentional idleness, and poof! I land between a rock and a hard place. If I have ten minutes before I need to leave for our meeting, I’ll think of three quick chores that I think can be done in those ten minutes and then set about to do them, furiously rushing and worrying all the while. I don’t like to be early because I then idly wait while the dishwasher needs emptying and laundry needs forwarding. Add to the squeeze that I am tethered to three other humans and three animals that are not prioritizing my punctuality, and it’s a wonder I have ever been on time once in my life!
When our girls were in preschool, I never picked them up more than about 120 seconds late because that would have been taking advantage of the ragged, exhausted saints who’d kept them alive for the previous two hours in my absence, and because it might have been worrying for the girls. You may use this as evidence that I can, in fact, be close to punctual. Yes. When it comes to the well-being of my kids, I can and am. But I can’t quite seem to extend this into other areas of my life like being perfectly punctual to lunch dates and church. Although I was never more than a couple of minutes late to the preschool, I was never early, either. I maximized my productive alone time every chance I got.
A Close Scrape
One day, I was walking this razor’s edge and noticed I was 1 or 2 minutes behind schedule. I picked up the driving speed and swiftly got pulled over by a motorcycle sheriff. He was all business. Gruff even. I immediately and embarrassingly burst into tears. Not by design, mind you, but by sheer despair that I would now be full-on late to pick up my girls. He asked for license and registration and then said something like “I don’t appreciate the manipulative tears, ma’am, and they sure aren’t going to get you out of a speeding ticket.” I apologized for his misunderstanding. I said that I feel nothing but respect for law enforcement and realize I deserved a ticket for speeding but that I was upset because I would now be late to pick up my girls from preschool and didn’t want the teachers to feel taken advantage of or my girls to feel worried about my not being there. He remained curt, but I noticed a faint softening behind his eyes. He said he’d keep my license and follow me to the school where he’d wait in the parking lot to complete my violation after I’d collected my girls. I then, like someone looking a gift horse in the mouth, asked him if it would be illegal for me to drive without my license in my possession (can you believe that? What a goody goody! Eye roll). I thought he might have been trying to trick me. He laughed, said it’d be ok, and off we both went.
I cried stress tears and drove with perfection the rest of the way to the school. I was mad at myself for
speeding getting caught (let’s be honest!), and I was starting to think about how awful it’d be to get a ticket in front of my girls. I was also acutely aware that my every move was now being observed by an already offended officer. I parked in the church lot, sheriff escort in tow, and walked in. This being a small church preschool, I knew most of the other parents and the teachers. And when I’ve been crying, it’s real obvious. Blotchy skin, sniffles, puffy red eyes. It’s full glamour. So, I had to explain to each concerned onlooker in both classrooms and both teachers what had happened. I have no idea how long I was in there. I came out of the school with a cutie pie girl at the end of each arm, face still blotchy. The officer was standing by the door. He handed me my license, said to take good care of those little girls, to drive carefully, and to have a nice day. He then turned and walked back to his motorcycle. I proclaimed my humble gratitude to the back of his head as he walked away and made a promise to myself to manage my time better! But I frequently break promises to myself. (That’s an issue for another article and one I’m also trying to fix.)
There is hope. Since my discovery that the alarm feature on my phone is useful to me as a daytime alarm, I make a habit of deciding when I need to leave, subtracting 5 minutes for the invariable 3 things I need to do on my way to grab my purse (fill the water bottle, use the bathroom, grab the kids a snack, let the dog out) and 5 minutes for the inevitable unforeseen. Then, when the alarm goes off, I stop what I’m doing, head towards the door, and usually end up where I need to be a touch early. It’s a Jarrett family miracle! This works really well for mid-day and evening punctuality. Morning punctuality is now my biggest roadblock, and I have yet to conquer making myself get up with plenty of time. If you have any tips for me there, I’d love to hear them!
There is no quick fix to my tardiness issue. And I know that understanding it’s source as optimism and not disrespect or disregard doesn’t make it any less irritating when I keep you waiting. I guess I just want you to know, I’m hurrying, I’m mortified that I’ve kept you waiting, and your time is every bit as important as mine.