Monkey Mind: On Time

Turns out there are writing prompts for this daily blog posting event. Yesterday’s was Five Interesting Things About Me. I made a list, but I am so tired of Internet lists. I’m going to start with just one of my endlessly entertaining quirks, and hopefully, Dear Reader, your curiosity will be piqued and you will return tomorrow and thereafter.

Shall we begin with a haiku?

Your hands sweep across
My face—time moves so slowly
And life rushes past

I am pathologically on time. My wife, The Little Woman, shares my sickness. We arrive early for everything. Movies, appointments, ferries, interviews, coffee dates, events. I don’t know what drives TLW, but for me I can trace my punctuality to two things: a self-help/self-awareness/personal growth workshop I took many years ago and a previous marriage. I guess maybe people were trickling in late to the workshop and the presenter asked them how important the workshop was to them. If memory serves, they all answered that it was very important. Then why are you so late? She pressed. Traffic. Kids. Spousal issues—the answers varied. Then the workshop is less important than all those things, the presenter said. They protested. No. Not at all. Stuff happens. If the workshop were more important than all of those things, the presenter said, you would have been here on time.

They went round and round for awhile longer on this topic. I squirmed in my seat, hating the conflict I wasn’t even a part of. The upshot was this—we will make time to get to the things that matter to us on time. How important is that job interview? Is it important enough that you refuse to risk being caught in a traffic jam? Is it so important you will arrive the night before and get a hotel room to avoid being late? How important is teaching your class? Your livelihood depends on being on time. You make time to get there. How important is this workshop? She asked again. Light bulbs went on. Pennies dropped. Heads hung. The lesson was not lost on me. I internalized that lesson.

The other reason for my punctuality has a lot to do, I think, with having once been “married” to a woman who, given an extra twenty minutes, would paint a bedroom before we left for an event. Didn’t matter if we were going to friend’s for dinner or to a play at the university. She could squeeze an extra chore into any sliver of time, no matter how small. Ten minutes? She’ll weed whack the back yard. Fifteen? Give the dog a bath. I hated living like that. Hated arriving out of breath and with paint in my hair. Hated the stress.

Being early for things certainly has advantages. I can find parking. I generally don’t arrive to anything sweaty and disheveled. I get good seats. Sometimes I get in to my appointments early if no one is ahead of me, which gets me out earlier. Getting to movies early is particularly entertaining—TLW and I have sort of made a sport of watching people arrive and choose their seats. Generally it’s comical. Sometimes it’s annoying. Occasionally we will be in a virtually empty movie theater and someone will sit right in front of us. One time, when there were at least another 50 seats available a woman and her friend sat right next to TLW—right next to her. No one seat courtesy. Just bam, right there to share the armrest. That was a WTF moment. But sometimes getting somewhere too early is awkward. People aren’t expecting me. I have to sit in the car an uncomfortable amount of time. Time drags by. I worry and wonder if people think I’m casing their homes.

So, I’ve been trying to fine-tune my time management skills, looking for the sweet spot between being too early and being late enough to cause stress. I’ve been noticing how much time I waste waiting. Since I got my iPhone ‘lo those many years ago, waiting is rarely boring, but perhaps I’m spending too much time on LOLz when I could be a tad more productive. I can take an extra ten minutes to finish up a piece of writing or to rinse out the coffee pot or to stop for gas so the low-fuel light doesn’t go on. I’m not going to start a major remodeling project, certainly, but I could wrap up a few small tasks instead of monkey-minding my way through my Twitter feed or flipping through my Facebook posts. Yesterday, for example, I made myself sit until I finished my blog and posted it. I had plenty of time, but I had to force myself to stay in my seat. I knew my pending appointment was only a ten minute drive away, max. Even in Bellingham where we may as well just make the speed limit 20 on every single road because no one drives faster than that, ever, I could get there with time to spare. So I sat. I finished typing. I edited. I glanced at the clock. Still plenty of time. I copied. Pasted. Posted. Even with the slow Internet at the café my blog post showed up before I needed to leave.

I put on my jacket. Finished my tea. Bussed my table. And sauntered to my Jeep. I drove the speed limit all the way. And I still arrived ten minutes early. I guess there’s still some work to be done.

4 thoughts on “Monkey Mind: On Time

  1. Like you, I had it explained to me long ago that tardiness can be an issue of disrespect and control. Making someone wait is a form of controling them and/or the situation at hand. When you know someone CAN show up on time for the things that matter to them (work, school, church…whatever), when they are continually late for meetings (from business to coffee dates) that says to me, “I do not value this event, you, or your time.” Maybe I over think things (gosh, I’ve never been accused of THAT).

    And so I, too, am pathologically on time. I do not want to project disrespect to someone by being tardy. And I hate that feeling of sliding in just under the wire, unprepared and out of breath. You are fortunate to have a spouse who shares that illness…that’s all I’m sayin’ about that 🙂

    • That is the other thing–the whole respect aspect. I was seeing a naturopath who was always 45 minutes to an hour late to see me, even when I was the first appointment. I said something to her about feeling disrespected and she said “well, doctors have emergencies, you know.” Seriously? Naturopath emergencies? I stopped going.

  2. Good to know there are others who value punctuality! My ex-husband made hundreds of people wait for 2 and a half hours before our wedding, while he had a casual chat with his best friend. I was hysterical, but the hundreds of people were just plain pissed! Should’ve been a warning, eh, but that was his wabi sabi chink that became a dam bursting eventually. One of my friends here is always 15 minutes early and I don’t mind a bit. She can make the coffee or set the table or clean my toilet. Anyhow, amusing and spot-on post, Pam.

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