I am a very punctual person. I,am also; very’ punctuated!? (HA). In fact, my punctuality is the stuff of legend, by which I of course mean it’s the subject of my long-form epic poem, and My Struggle, my yet-to-be-released XX,000-word epic to rival and one-word-up Karl Ove Knausgaad’s.
But my punctuality is quite a feat. I have the uncanny ability to be at a meeting at EXACTLY the time it begins. If friends say “Let’s meet at 7:00,” I will want to text them at 7:01 and be like “Ummm where are you guys? Stop being so late!” Responses to any sort of social communication (text, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder) can be creepily immediate. Hell, I’m so punctual that I told you so in the very first sentence.
This gift, though powerful and noble, has caused me much grief. Because as it turns out, life is not punctual. Yeah, I know, it surprised me too. I mean you’d think with all the uncertainty of life, it’s at least punctual. “I don’t know what’s happening but by gum I know it’s happening at exactly this time.” This has been proved tragically false. People complain about cable company appointment scheduling (where they’re like “We’ll be there sometime between 3pm and whenever we feel like it”), but for someone who’s punctual, that’s ALL THE TIME. I’ll end up being the weirdo in an empty bar because the plan was to meet at 9 and that generally means the first person shows up at 10. Granted, I’ll always be the weirdo in a bar, but I prefer to at least be around people I know to temper my weirdness to the rest of the world. As a result of numerous such awkward experiences, two things have happened.
First, I’ve taught myself to be (kinda) late. I’ve taken to checking the time when approaching the place I’m going, and calculating how much time I need to kill to be “normal on time.” Then I make myself late. Now, what I’m about to write, I write with complete honesty, and if you were to see me write it you’d see my right hand firmly up in a Scout’s Honor salute (you’d also see that I’m not wearing pants, so please stop looking at me). The way I make myself just slightly late on most occasions is by walking around one or several blocks by the place where I’m supposed to be. So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to not have someone already be at the agreed-upon meeting place, wondering why Patrick is walking past the meetup, only to make his way back from the other side, slightly sweatier. The sad thing about this method is that it’s not even all that effective. For the most part this makes me, at best, 5 minutes late. Which is still arriving well before anyone else.
This has led to the second thing that has happened in response to my tragic punctuality. Which is that I try to just leave later than I normally would (gives me shivers just typing that). As a result, I actually end up being legit late for things. Sometimes. Once. A year. I’ve been late once to a thing this year. The reason for being legit late, as opposed to casually late, is summed up in one abbreviation. It is an unholy abbreviation and if you’re at work, you might want to quickly skim over it then shut down and burn your computer so you don’t get locked away (though you’d probably get locked away for burning your work’s computer, so maybe don’t do that). Ok, here we go. The abbreviation is “MTA.” Sorry, I know that was rough but thanks for allowing me to be so vulgar. If you’re not from New York, this abbreviation stands for the [CONTENT REDACTED] that handles mass transit in the city.
Now, you may be thinking “I wonder if I should get Chipotle for lunch. I mean I had Chipotle yesterday, but damn if they don’t do a burrito bowl to the T.” The answer is get Chipotle. For me. For all of us. If you’re instead thinking about that last paragraph though, you may be thinking that it’s no big surprise that the MTA made me late. “Come on, Patrick, getting anywhere in NYC is a notoriously delayed adventure, and everyone knows it. And stop doing that stupid thing where you throw in a random thing that you think I was thinking, ‘cause I quite clearly want Qdoba!” Well, you got me there. Qdoba is the better of the two (queso dip FTW!).
But I would counter that it’s really weird that here in the city the universally-accepted excuse for being late is some form of “Train was f*cked.” Not because it’s a lie (99% of the time that’s exactly what happened), but because it shouldn’t be such a commonplace thing. I mean, in Japan the trains are so punctual, they actually give out a late slip if the train made you late so you don’t get fired/divorced/ridiculed when you finally arrive at your destination (these are the only three acceptable forms of punishment for tardiness in Japan). Here, they’d have to give out on-time slips. “Oh sorry, I’m here when I was supposed to be, the train was running on schedule. No really, here’s my slip.”
The very well-written, and not in any way rant against the MTA aside, every time I’m legit late, I freak out because it makes me think I’m becoming one of those weirdos that isn’t punctual. Ya know, a normal person. So then I just end up overcompensating for my misstep, and am super early. In the grand scheme of things, this hasn’t been that terrible. As a result of being so early, I’ve done so much walking around to make myself kinda late that I’m getting pretty svelte. And isn’t that what punctuality is all about?*
*No, no it’s not. It’s about being at a place at the exact time you were intending to.