Reflections on Waiting

It sometimes feels as if I have spent 50% of my life waiting–waiting for people, events, movies to begin…pretty much anything that requires time. The bottom line is, I am always early, and, thus, much of my waiting is self-inflicted. Being early or late likens to the comparison of being a Republican or a Democrat. Most people are one or the other (not including 3rd party, etc….). Being on time, in a sense, has become almost like a religion, as I practice it throughout my days. I can no sooner be late than become a gorilla. On the occasional time that I am running a little late (no more than 5 minutes), I begin to breathe heavily and panic. I know this is a problem and would love to be late once just so I could know that I won’t melt, but being on time comes from eons of programming from long ago and a genetic component. The ‘late gene’ in my family was completely missing.

My father Milton was famous for getting to places early and because we were a family, we were, by proxy, all early. It wasn’t a stretch to say that we arrived at a wedding before the bridal party (well, sometimes they were there but were taking pictures). At various funerals, we also arrived before the casket. We always arrived early for our dinner and hotel reservations, often both the table and rooms still occupied by the previous ‘owners.’ My father would have a very jovial way of starting our early journey by telling both my mother and me to take our time, but we knew what this really meant. While we were getting dressed, my father was in the front seat of the car, with the motor running. It was impossible not to rush, knowing gasoline was burning. So began my indoctrination into obsessive time management.

When we went on our annual vacation to Palm Springs, we had to pack ahead of time, so my mother wouldn’t get nervous (she was a stickler for time, too). In fact, we packed up to two weeks ahead of the trip. During those two weeks, my mother would often say, “You are wearing that outfit again?” Clearly, over the course of 14 days, everything I had worth wearing was already packed in my suitcase. The night before we were ready to leave, my father performed his ‘dry run routine’ of packing the trunk of the car with our suitcases. Once he knew they would fit together like a puzzle (based on his schema that he had drawn), he would remove the luggage from the trunk and stack the suitcases in the garage to await the official packing the next day.

I have rebelled over the years and consequently, when going on a trip, I pack the night before or even the day of! I know I am living dangerously. I also don’t think it should be a surprise to myself or to others that, in a sense, I married my father with regards to ‘the time issue.’ My time-sensitive husband Paul is incredibly early/prompt for engagements, travel, movies, theater, and get-togethers. We have spent many minutes sitting in the car outside our destination, as it is too early to enter–embarrassingly too early. The Kindle has saved my sanity, for now I have reading material in my purse when we are too early. The back lit Kindle case enables me to read in darkened theaters, too, as we wait for the advertisements to come across the silent screen (we are so early, that there is nothing playing…not even music). Now that many theaters have reserved seating, I thought that we wouldn’t have to arrive so early, but we still do because of parking. I really can’t complain because I also like to wait in the theater instead of at home. And it’s true; parking in Los Angeles is horrible and if we don’t get to the theater complex early, then there are slim pickings in the parking lot. Still, there is a part of me that envies those who arrive at their movies just as the coming attractions are finished and the movie is beginning. This would be my version of jumping out of an airplane–without a parachute.

Still, I have embraced arriving early over the years, to the point that I really can’t blame my father or my husband. The genetic component of ‘being on time’ is deeply embedded in my DNA and I take responsibility for this character trait. I am early for my own engagements and my own meetings, yet I am planning on being late to my own funeral.

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