I Can’t Be Late

I suffer from the affliction of chronic earliness. As afflictions go, I suppose it isn’t worthy of stewing about, as compared to the insatiable need to rob banks or chew my fingernails, afflictions of that nature. I never arrive late, and I wrestle with anxiety if being late appears as a possibility, even as a slight maybe. I have gone so far as to rehearse being “on time”, not early, but on time to curb my habit. I failed in that exercise, which consisted of me circling the block or sitting in my car in order to not be early and, therefore, I abandoned said notion of adopting an on-time approach to life’s engagements. Early it is.

In order to be early, I build in a contingency plan for every foreseeable disaster – road construction, car accident, asteroid hitting the earth right in front of me (never behind), a sink hole, someone telling a very long story while I try not to look at my watch. I make space in my plan for all of the above and this is magnified several times over when I’m heading to the airport. I think I could plan on arriving at check-in six days before my flight departs and still fret on the way there about being late. I think this may fall under the heading of a neurosis. The bad news is, as I age, my earliness seems to be increasing. Invite me for dinner and I may show up at breakfast. That is never good and can be off-putting for the host.

I have friends who are perpetually late. I don’t think they own a watch or ever glance at one and their arrival time is “whenever I get there”. I sometimes have the urge to pummel them when they finally arrive. I remember reading some article about lateness and how that habit is laced with arrogance, that nothing is more important than what such an individual has going on in her/his own life. That can’t be the exclusive reason across the board for those who are late-ies. Some research is required.

I consulted Psychology Today, who seem to have all the answers about humanity’s quirkiness. Some psychologists believe that those who are late feel equal anxiety for being early as though punctual types feel about being late. She went on to say that late-ies (my term, not hers) are concerned with efficient use of their time. I’m not sure that efficiency comes into the equation where I am concerned. If I plan a hike for me alone along the ocean’s shore for a certain time, I don’t show up early for said adventure, because I’m not worried about keeping myself waiting. Add a friend to the hike and I’m early for sure, because I can’t bear the thought of keeping anyone waiting. I think that falls under the heading of pleasing others, which isn’t always a good thing.


Psychology Today goes on to refer to a study to curb lateness by thinking and focusing and creating benefits of arriving slightly early or on time. My mother may have been a late-ie. In the summer, she would drop me off at The Point to swim with my friends and told me she would pick me up at a certain time and I was to be sitting on the picnic table at the corner of Idylwild Drive and Lake Road, or else. I didn’t dare be late, but funny enough, my mother was never on time to pick me up and I sometimes sat on that blasted picnic table for a couple of hours. There could be the root of my earliness.

Franklin D Roosevelt is credited with advising others to change the perspective of the early bird getting the worm in favour of the bad luck of the worm in that scenario becoming someone’s lunch. If only that dang bird had been on time, Mr. Worm could have lived to tell another story. Maybe I’ll consider that the next time I have to be somewhere, which isn’t likely to be any time soon.

wendistewart@live.ca