Saturday, August 7, 2010

Until We Get There

There are two kinds of people in the world — punctual ones who respect others' time, on the one hand, and, on the other, inconsiderate dickheads who should have been drowned in infancy. I believe that, as one of the more obnoxious forms of passive aggression, chronic lateness betrays a pathological need for attention.

I am myself from punctual stock. If my parents needed to be somewhere at 2 o’clock, you could count on their being parked outside at 1:45. I never liked Creedence Clearwater very much until I read that John Fogerty turned up for an interview with Rolling Stone three minutes late and apologized for it.

I owe one of my best ad-libs ever to the habitual tardiness of my girlfriend Nancy. Living together way out on the dreary, foggy western edge of San Francisco, we decided one afternoon in 1990 to go see Dances With Wolves at the glorious Alhambra Theater on Polk Street, at the base of Nob Hill. I, of course, was ready to roll with time to spare. She, of course, found 500 little things she had to do before we actually got going, by which time we had about 12 minutes to make what in the lightest traffic would have been a 20-minute drive, which wasn’t even to factor in that in San Francisco, there’s no such thing as a parking place. I hate missing the beginnings of movies, and my blood pressure and annoyance levels were surely well off the charts as we sped east along Golden Gate Park’s southern edge. “What did you think it was getting,” I finally screamed at her when we just missed an amber light in the Panhandle, “earlier?”

Around that same time, I was supposed to meet Wife the First in front of a particular medical building at 3:30 on Sutter Street, where she would be handing our daughter off to me for the weekend. At five minutes before 4, there went my blood pressure again, as my choices had become to dash several blocks to where I was parked to prevent my car’s being towed at 4, or staying put and getting my daughter. I stayed, and by some miracle wasn’t towed, but I probably worried the last couple of months off the end of my life. Imagine the warm feeling I had when my daughter related that, in the car on the way down, my ex-wife had predicted that I was going to be angry, and the friends with whom she was coming to the City asked how she ever could have tolerated life with someone so…controlling.

Wife the First may have been even less punctual than Nancy. In the classic passive-aggressive way, she would always bat her eyelashes and muse, “I just don’t know why I always seemed to get delayed.” This would have been a lot more credible if I’d known her even once to miss a flight. My impression was that she did just fine with time when it was important to her, and took a they-can-wait stance at all other times.

On many occasions, Nancy urged, “Chill out! We won’t actually be late until we get there” which made me want to strangle her more, rather than less. The time I was most furious at her for delaying me was in the autumn of 1998, when my daughter Brigitte was her high school’s mascot. She would put on what in hot weather was a suffocating puma outfit, and cavort on the sidelines with the cheerleaders. She prepared a dance routine to perform at one home game, but because of Nancy’s dawdling, we arrived three minutes after its conclusion. Or maybe the real culprit was my not having the sense or backbone to leave San Francisco without Nancy. I was heartbroken to realize I’d missed my daughter’s performance, and swore to myself that I’d be early for the next one. Naturally, there wasn’t a next one. Maybe there never is.

1 comment:

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