An open let­ter …

On punc­tu­al­ity

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED -

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.

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