An open letter …
On to it. Like really, on to it. Uberorganised. Together and balanced and collected. This was how I fancied the world saw me. Uh-uh. It can come as the rudest of shocks when you realise the self you had imagined you presented to others, does not, in fact, marry with their impressions of you at all. The first indicator was when a friend asked if I’d be a case study for a story on lateness. Although I know punctuality is not my strong suit, somehow I’d convinced myself my habitual tardiness had gone largely unnoticed among my wider social circle. That my attention to detail and sense of selfdiscipline, my boring reliability and impeccable memory, had overshadowed my failure to ever arrive anywhere on time. Besides, I’m never really, really late. It’s not like I ever actually miss anything. Just a furtive five minutes past the appointed hour here, a trusty 10 there. But once I had been outed as one of the chronically late, it was as if the floodgates had opened: none-too-gentle jibes, emailed links to various stories on the subject. It kept coming. And in truth it was almost liberating. No longer did I have to try to come up with fresh feeble excuses when I arrived at our agreed meeting place to find my date half way through their first drink. They, I realised, simply expected it of me. Still, it pained me to be thought of as shambolic, substandard in some fundamental way, ill-mannered even. For that’s what late people are, aren’t they? This public uncloseting, however, has been a process of self-discovery in untold ways.
One article I was sent theorises that in order to overcome your lateness, you must first understand your personality type. I ticked most of the boxes for The Perfectionist (“Can’t leave home until the dishwasher is packed and set running.”), more than a few for The Dreamer (“They are bizarrely confident that they can have a shower, pack all their luggage, take the elevator downstairs, wait in the queue at reception, check out of the hotel and get a taxi to the airport in a total of 10 minutes.”), and one or two for The Crisis Maker (“The pressure and the adrenalin rush gives them a nice thrill that they keep chasing.”). The only bill I did not fit was The Defier (“Feel they have to stand up against the broad authority of our existing societal constructs that tell us what to do, and when to do it.”). At the end there was a whole pile of well-meaning advice as to how to rehabilitate yourself. But like any behaviour-changing course of action, it would require a whole lot of work. And I can’t quite summon up the energy.
So I think I may, instead, take solace in the findings of Jeff Conte, a San Diego psychology professor, who has found that the routinely late have a type B personality, as opposed to a type A. Apparently for every minute of the day type B personalities believe they have an extra 17 seconds. And these 17 extra seconds they suppose they have actually leave them more room for creative thinking. I’ve always, somewhat sadly, believed I sat firmly in the glass-half-empty camp, but rather than concluding we type B’s are deluded, as Professor Conte could feasibly have done, he reckons we are optimists.
Last week I wrote about the significance of place. Andrea said it brought back memories of New Plymouth, the beloved town she had to leave as a child when her father got a new job. “How the Pukekura Park lit up at night, before there was a light festival, how the fountain played, and how I bumped my head when I fell off the green bench which is still there, just where it always was.” For Paula, my admissions of real estate avarice didn’t so much stir up fond memories as her anger. “Are you for real? Agonising over which suburb to live in so you can have a garage! I just want a place to live at all. So far my pay increase means having to work more to make up for the loss of childcare subsidy. Completely over coupled-up, two-income families whinging about superficial shit.”
It pained me to be thought of as shambolic, substandard in some fundamental way, illmannered even.