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BEING ON TIME
31 October 2012
I don't know for sure if my father was obsessive about being on time, but he worked on a railroad train and trains wait for no man, so it's pretty certain that he got the habit of being on time for things. That must be where I got the need to always be on time. I get antsy if I'm going to be a minute or two late to work at the book store, for example, even though it's a volunteer job and Peter and Susan are very laid back.
I don't know how I do it. I constantly amaze myself that I can take off for a far distant location, decide in my mind that I will probaby arrive at a certain time, get lost, waylaid, stop for food or gas, whatever and somehow still arrive within minutes of the time I thought I would.
In the days when I was traveling a lot for either interviews or meeting with foreign students, or other things, I always allowed "getting lost" time because I almost always got lost, but I almost never arrived late anywhere.
Being on time is a laudible thing, except if you have been invited to a party. The first real "grown up" party that I remember being invited to was hosted by one of my Physics Department professor-bosses. I was so honored to be invited to his home and I dressed very carefully for the evening. I was dating Walt at the time, Walt who was much more casual about "on time" than he is now, and I was determined we were not going to be late for this party.
I don't remember when the party was to have started. Let's say 8 p.m. At 8 p.m. on. the. dot. we were ringing the doorbell to his house.
To my amazement, we were the first to arrive, and the family wasn't really even ready for us. People were still rushing around putting the finishing touches on things.
I don't remember anything else about that party except my embarrassment for having arrived too early to this party. (I don't think I was invited to another of his parties!)
I had to teach myself the concept of being "fashionably late." And since I am not a social butterfly, it's difficult to know when you should be fashionably late, and when being on time is really a better option. I've been to events where I have forced myself to be fashionably late, only to discover that it really was expected that guests be on time. Most of the time, though, I try to arrive 15-30 minutes after the start time and that seems to work out all right.
I recently received an invitation from Susan and Peter. This is my first year volunteering for Logos Books, so I was delighted to discover that they give a yearly thanksgiving gathering to thank all of us who volunteer at the store. I was looking forward to it because working by myself, as I do, I don't really know any of the other volunteers, and it would be nice to see this motley crew who give up an afternoon to sit around all those great books and chit chat with other book lovers.
The party was scheduled to run from 6:30 to 9:30 and I made certain that we did not arrive at 6:30. I figured we would leave the house at 6:45.
The first problem was that I couldn't find the invitation. I could have sworn it had been e-mailed but I couldn't find it anywhere, so I wasn't sure what their address was. I checked everywhere (while the hands on the clock moved later and later). I called their house, but nobody answered. Then I called Susan's cell phone and got no answer there either. I figured she was one of those thoughtful people who concentrated on her guests and let her phone messages go to voice mail, though that didn't help me find her house. I have been to her house before, with Char, a few years ago, but though I knew the street, I could not have found the house to save my soul, especially not in the dark.
I finally tried just doing a Google search on Peter's name and, thank God, there was their address. I remembered to pack my camera, so I could take a picture for my "My 70th Year" blog.
We drove to the street, which is one of those typical Davis streets which has very little illumination and you can't see a single house number. However, when we got to their house, there was an orange light over the number, obviously to make it easier for all of us to find the place.
There were no other people arriving, and I figured they were there already, since it was now nearly 7 p.m. I also have no idea how many people actually are on the volunteeer list.
We went to the door and I rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. I rang it again and still no answer. I thought I could hear it ringing, but maybe everyone was just making too much noise and you couldn't hear it. Finally I knocked and after a long time, I heard someone come to the door. Peter opened it and I thought it strange that he was dressed in shorts and wearing socks and no shoes, but he graciously invited us in.
He kind of looked at me quizzically and I said "isn't tonight the gathering?" He appeared confused, then realized what I meant.
It turned out we were a week early. The gathering is NEXT week. Peter was home by himself.
I was very embarrassed and apologized for coming on the wrong night. The problem with coming on the wrong night, though, was that there was nothing to cook for dinner at home, so we ended up going to Panda Express for a fast dinner.
I'm always happiest when I don't have to cook dinner, so it was a win for me, and we figured "Panda" was an appropriate place to celebrate the Giants win anyway.
I sent an e-mail to Susan when we got home and apologized for coming
early. She sent me a new copy of the invitation and I have marked the RIGHT day on
my calendar and will be fashionably late next week, not embarrassingly early!
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