The waiting game
Watching the clock.
When it comes to meeting up with friends, there are really only two types you’ll be waiting for; a) friends who are always late, and b) friends who are always early. Friends who are always early seem ideal, but they can make you feel awfully guilty for being late even if you’re there 1/2 hour early. Friends who are always late never make you feel guilty, they just make you feel annoyed. With non-friends, you don’t really have to wait at all, you can just leave, who cares, but with friends you’re definitely going to end up waiting or keeping them waiting, and feeling either guilty or annoyed.
Being an obsessive early-arrival type means that I spend a lot of unnecessary time waiting, even if the person I’m meeting is right on time. I’ve tried to be late to see how it feels, but even when I’ve left at the very last possible minute, I always somehow manage to get to where I’m going on time, or early. I don’t like cutting it close, though, I don’t like the feeling, it’s a sort of skin-crawly uneasy feeling that I suspect only early-types ever experience.
The one-time exception to never being late was when I made a specific point of being very very late. I was trying to prove to a friend, who has never been on time for anything in his life, that being late is a wrong thing. He lacks any guilty conscience about his lateness, he considers it to be a good thing, it’s a benefit, he says. In his view, if people would just stop griping long enough to embrace and appreciate his lateness, they would be happier humans. By this he means that waiting for him gives you an unexpected and pleasant respite, one replete with options: to read the comics, to people-watch, to meditate, to work on stuff, to think about interesting things to talk about. Or to go slowly crazy. I added that last one, because that is the option I usually take.
I argued that being late was power-tripping, and that he should not be the one who decides when and where a person takes such a respite. He was not moved by my logic, however, which left me little choice but to show him how it feels by doing the same to him. So, one day I made a point of being late. I had to be shockingly late, because it would have defeated the entire point of the exercise if he still hadn’t shown by the time I arrived. There’s ‘late’ and ‘later’, he does both really well, so I went for ‘latest’ which is sort of the crème de la lateness. Now, I know it’s wrong to point out a bad habit by making an example of it, we are taught early in life by our mothers that two wrongs never make a right, and it’s true. Then again, sometimes when mother’s words go flying out the window, two wrongs can make for pretty good revenge, ‘right’ be damned. And revenge it was, because my friend was totally put out by my lateness. He wasn’t sitting there ‘enjoying the pleasant options of an unexpected respite’, no. He was sitting there getting fidgety and feeling annoyed. Ha. I thoroughly enjoyed his put-outedness, despite having to pay a steep price: after that he was able to be late while claiming that I, too, was a late person.
Right now I’m waiting for some friends to call so we can set up a time to meet. They were going to call around noon, it is now 2:30. They have not called. They have not arrived. This turns out to be a good thing, since I, too, made something wait today: my column, which sat there a sad neglected empty page while I spent the morning plunking away on my ukulele. So now I am writing my column while waiting for my friends, who have unknowingly done me this favour. It’s serendipity. It also proof that my other always-late friend was at least little bit right about taking advantage of the time given to you when you’re waiting for someone. I’ll never admit it to him, though. Or if I do, I’ll be unbelievably late doing so.
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