Riding Coattails: Punctuality Rules!

Jerry Bruckheimer has performed an important public service. While I’ve had mixed feelings about The Amazing Race’s executive producer in the past (he helped bring Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to the screen, but also Kangaroo Jack), my most recent impressions of his work have been favorable. In particular, I have nothing but admiration for someone who promotes a show as chock-full of life lessons as The Amazing Race.

One of my favorite things about this show is that it rewards punctuality and penalizes tardiness, two values that are very dear to my heart. I grew up riding around in my mother’s speeding mini van as she raced across town to drop me off at swimming lessons and marching band practice. My mother, bless her, has never been especially skilled at the fine art of time management and hence, I was constantly late to my appointments and extracurriculars. I was the kid who always tried to sneak into side row of woodwinds with a look of flushed humiliation on my face and took countless hits of grief from others who had been blessed with parents who actually paid attention to their watches. Then, after band practice was over, I became the kid who sat at the edge of the parking lot for 45 minutes before that mini van pulled up and carted me home.

I’m not trying to lay down tracks for some big sob story here and I certainly appreciate the fact that my mother acted as chauffeur (delinquent as she was) for my siblings and me. However, being raised by this perpetually late woman undoubtedly had a hand in shaping my views on time and the value of promptness. When I was sixteen, I got my license and a groovy old beater car and thus could ferry my own ass around town in a timely fashion, which I did. I felt a tingle of satisfaction every time I arrived at my appointed destination with minutes to spare and reveled in the fact that when the event was over, I could leave immediately. This newfound independence made me a much happier, more agreeable human being.

Now that I’m an adult, I continue to enjoy the benefits of coming and going as I please (which is on time). Unfortunately, however, the racing mini van experiences I was forced to endure as a youngster have left indelible scars on my psyche, occasionally causing me to behave in ways that might confuse anyone unfamiliar with my history. For example, last year, I made plans with two good friends to get together and have dinner. They agreed to come over to my apartment at 6:00 pm, after which we would decide where we wished to dine. For whatever reason, they were late and by 6:20, I was so upset and offended, I threw myself onto my bed, burst into tears, and refused to emerge when they rang my doorbell at 6:30. My husband let them in and sat talking with them in the living room. I was so distraught that I called him on his cell phone from the bedroom and told him to go to dinner without me. Our friends suspected that something fishy was going on and left a few minutes later, swathed in a coil of apologies and regrets.

I recognize that this is not a reasonable reaction. I know that people have many good reasons for being late and even I sometimes fall prey to circumstances that prevent me from getting places on time. People have fender benders. They need emergency appendectomies. The subway breaks down. It takes time to shovel one’s way out from under a 12-foot snow drift. Stuff happens. However, lateness is an emotional trigger for me and I have to work very hard to not take it personally when my high school friend isn’t at the coffee shop at 2:00 sharp. And as a teacher, I am continually dealing with students who waltz into class 10, 15, or even 30 minutes after a lesson has begun. Although I love my job, I constantly struggle with the issue of late students, despairing in the fact that they will probably never change.

Chronically late people tend to strike me as fairly selfish, inconsiderate individuals. Their lateness tells me that they don’t see my time as valuable. And even a heartfelt apology afterwards doesn’t make much difference to me, since I believe that showing up on time in the first place is what really counts. I tend to cut more slack to those who are normally punctual and may suffer the occasional slip-up, especially since when these good folks are late, they do nice things like call to tell me when they expect to get in. I’ve confronted friends who can’t get their act together in that area and those who weren’t able to change were crossed off my Christmas card list. I’d rather concentrate on all of the lovely people who are willing to reciprocate the respect I show them by being on time.

The Amazing Race plays perfectly to my punctual sensibilities. Although the players are not required to reach their destinations at specific times, they are all vying to be the
fastest, and the best. The first team to arrive at a pit stop receives a special prize and the last team is booted from the game. Granted, the game is full of situations that could case unforeseen stalling for the contestants and some of the losers were merely victims of unfortunately circumstances, such as Lena and Kristy. However, those players that keep their heads about them and work through the difficulties typically persevere. And then they win cruises to Greece. I totally love that.

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