I Have a Problem – Anti-Punctualititis


I have anti-punctualititis. There I said it. You may laugh. You may think get a life, get a job, grow up and face the music, take a look in the mirror and cut your hair, or just set your f**## alarm! Go ahead, think away. But this is my life. I’ve set alarms, I’ve written lists, I’ve drawn up schedules (in 15 minute increments), but nothing works. I HAVE ANTI-PUNCTUALITITIS.

I have anti-punctualititis to such a degree that only last night, after beginning to write this very confession, I packed up my computer at the cafe I frequent to write, went home to feed my dog, threw on some heels, applied some killer red lippy and then hopped on the freeway (hello LA!), only to meet my theatre date at the wrong parking structure, 10 minutes late. It was when I reached into my purse to pay the parking attendant that I realized I’d also left my wallet at home. My friend courteously paid for me and then as the two of us RAN to the theatre he said “I always find something to do or somewhere to stop-over on my way to meeting you.” “Why’s that?” I gasped as I struggled to keep up with him in my 6-inch heels. “Because you’re never early.” (That was him being polite.)

I’m the kind of person who other people expect to arrive 30 minutes after the agreed meeting time. In fact, that would be considered punctual for me, slick even. I’ve been known to keep grown men waiting for 45 minutes to an hour on first dates (a conversation starter indeed.) My problem has been the cause of great relationship hurdles. An ex-boyfriend of mine would become sick with anxiety when we’d arrive at the theatre as the lights were going down and we’d have to clumsily climb past and over people in the dark to get to our seats.

To make matters worse, I also have an unfortunately low geographic-navigational IQ. So when I accidentally leave myself 10 minutes to get from Silverlake to West Hollywood (historically a 25 minute trip on a good day), I will likely miss my exit off the 101 and then take a wrong turn onto San Vicente or La Cienaga or whatever. By the time I finally find the street, I’m normally so strung out that I miss 3 available parking spots and find myself doing laps around the block, only to discover that those parks have now been taken.

That’s arguably the worst part about anti-punctualititis – arriving everywhere panicked and windswept (yes, after throwing a few coins into the parking meter, I RUN for my life!) So we extreme tardy-sorts tend to carry manilla folders of excuses (white lies) that we effortlessly pluck out on arrival: “I’m so sorry, the traffic was a nightmare!”, “My GPS had a melt-down and took me to Burbank!”, “I was held up on a long distance phone call…”, “my puppy took a dump on my room-mates bed” (that one actually happened to me), “my boyfriend was sick and we were out of Advil”, “that time of the month…”, “my car broke down and then miraculously started up again 30 minutes later. Go figure!” As you can imagine, this off-kilter entrance starts everything off on a, well… off-kilter note.

What’s really weird is that I’m surprisingly intolerant of other people’s tardiness. It’s kind of like a social smoker who can’t stand the smell of smoke when they’re not smoking. For instance, I’m finally in a relationship with someone who takes longer than me to get out the door. And it infuriates me. While he casually ties his shoelaces, looks for his phone charger or brushes his teeth, I pace around the room and hurl insults. It’s like – I’m already late enough for both of us and now you’re going to make us REEEAAALLYY LATE.

I guess you’re thinking – serves me right – right? The thing is, I have the same upstanding intention to get to places on time as you have. And in all sincerity I couldn’t pin my anti-punctualititis down to a lack of respect for others. Quite on the contrary – I may be really excited to see someone or wish to impress them, but for some reason it just doesn’t translate.

When researching “people who are late all the time” (that’s literally what I punched into Google), almost every article I read (The New York Times, The Huffington Post, psychologytoday.com, Lifestyle) referenced Diana DeLonzor. Apparently the universal expert on the matter, DeLonzor is the author of Never Be Late Again (clearly the next self-help book on my reading list). DeLonzor explains of the extremely tardy, “ It’s not that they don’t value your time. It’s not that they like the attention when they walk into the room.” She goes onto say, “Most late people have been late all their life, and they are late for every type of activity — good or bad.”

DeLonzor believes that late people break down into 7 groups. The first group are “the deadliners” (the most common of us) who subconsciously get high on the adrenaline of getting things done last minute or on a deadline. The second group, “ the producer”, “consistently over schedule” with the belief that they can get everything done in a small amount of time. The third group are “the absent minded professors” who are easily distracted people and who DeLonzor believes may even have a diagnosable condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The fourth is “the rebel” (less common) who actually enjoy the attention of being late and/or getting a rise out of people. The other less common groups are “the rationalizer” , “the indulger” and “the evader” .

Am I allowed to admit that in a bizarre way I relate to certain elements of them all?

As I kept reading I became unnerved; while this little written confession of mine began as a sort of tongue in cheek jig, Delonzor’s words began to weigh heavy. Myself and my fellow anti-puntualititees are a whole “type”. Like a community or a race. And we’re spread all over the world – all running late in unison. People write about us, some research us, complain to each other behind our backs and even tweet about us! A few weeks ago Huffington Post blogger, Greg Savage, was applauded with a disarming cacophony of Facebook likes when he posed the question, “How Did It Get to be OK for People to be Late for Everything?” He continues, “… an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration… It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late. Rubbish. You are rude. And inconsiderate. ”

But good old DeLonzor defends us late-comers: “ Lateness is really a commonly misunderstood problem… Yes, it’s a rude act, but I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and the vast majority of late people really dislike being late, they try to be on time, but this is something that has plagued them throughout their lives. Telling a chronic late person to be on time is like telling a dieter, ‘Don’t eat so much.’”

I’m sure culture has something to do with it. My parents taught me that it was rude to arrive at a dinner party any earlier than 30 minutes late. And any guests who arrived at our house at 7pm when they were invited for a 7pm dinner were frowned upon as uptight. I have a distinct memory of my whole family entering the church and creeping into a back row pew well into the ceremony of my First Communion. While admittedly I was a little disappointed that they’d missed some of it, secretly I smiled inside – they were my tribe.

Perhaps this is why when I was in the sixth grade I wanted nothing more than to play The White Rabbit in my primary school production of Alice in Wonderland . So much so that a thespian family friend coached me, in preparation for the audition, on the characterisation of the role and on the White Rabbit’s idiosyncratic song “I’m late I’m late for a very important date!” But when the cast list came up and my name appeared beside ALICE and not beside THE WHITE RABBIT, I cried a big fat anti-punctualititis of a river.