I always said that if I were to pen a book about my life, it would be called 'Table For One'. But rather than wait till I've doubled in age to retrospectively unpack life, I'm going to fast track and proffer a slice right now - because I know this part of my life won't change.
Let me wipe clean what many of you are probably thinking, though. No, this is not about being single now or for the rest of my life. I agree, the title lends itself to ideas of cobwebbed spinsterhood surrounded by various breeds of over-furred cats (I hate cats, sorry SO not sorry). But the crux of 'Table For One' is about one issue, a thorny one, one which wracks my brain and disappoints me all the time, at the sheer disregard for it.
In a table for all set up, if you will, let's congregate in good form, with a free-flow of bubbles and other poisons, maybe throw in a smorgasbord of cheeses, crackers and grapes and discuss something which we all handle and go about differently but where there's ultimately a clear right and wrong.
Punctuality. Being on time. Not being late. Checking your wrist watch. Glancing at your phone's watch. A quick look up at those LONDON, NEW YORK, SHANGHAI, PARIS, DUBAI clocks in corporate and hotel lobbies. Not leaving people to wander about aimlessly feeling self-conscious. Meeting people at a mutually agreed time so that you can do whatever it is you need to do and then go off into the next slot on your schedule and do whatever it is you need to do. Being able to read the bloody time.
This is not a wanky humble brag about how I've mastered the art of timeliness (I'm not above the haphazard, emergency run-ins) but it's about the level of respect we need to have for EACH OTHER'S time. When we set up a time to meet someone, it's established to suit each other's other commitments. I have a day, just like you. One person's tardiness is another person's messed up schedule. Here I define lateness in several camps.
One Place, Two People
Once I waited an hour (hour!) for someone in Paris. We agreed to meet outside a shop. Thank god for Kindles and other divine devices to distract from the painstaking wait - but sometimes, in situations like these, I end up wandering around the area and start feeding my shopping addiction -LATENESS MAKES ME POOR!
This was not a stand-alone situation though. This friend is notoriously late all the time and their pathetic punctuality was particularly pronounced this day. I should have known better but like most people, I try to see past it rather than come down on said person like a barrage of bricks. But one time, two times, three times, finish. NEXT!
Habitual latecomers who have a casual grasp on timing and treat it with an irritating aloofness - by way of an elaborate apology coated in cute and cunning (yes yes the last one) really make me die a slow death sometimes. I have some friends who are chronically late, whether it's for a fun or boring activity, they are simply hardwired to be late. But this frustrates the hell out of me - I make the effort, WHY don't you?
I have tried to be late. I've tried to give the other person a taste of their own medicine. Of all the times I have been 'purposefully' late, I end up having mild palpitations and an out of body experience, as if I am going against biology or something. Note to self and equally attentive time keepers: always agree to meet time crap people earlier than you actually intend to. Need to meet at 9? Say 8:30.
Those who say they're going to be late when they're already 20 minutes late? Choose someone else to walk all over...
My Home Is Your Home
I'm house proud - or rather, room proud (still living at home - hey gen y-ers!) and I make an effort to spruce things up for the guest of honour. But for years, I've pressed my nose against the window, drawn indecipherable scrawls on condensation patches and pulled faces at the garden while waiting for whichever highness is coming.
This is less of a blow than meeting in public. At least at home, I can get on with things like fluffing already plump pillows - mindless eating - finally getting round to overdue app updates on my laptop - squeezing stubborn whiteheads - watching Dr Pimple Popper annihilate beastly blackheads on Youtube.
But again, I am still left waiting. The waiting game never ends. As much as I fill that time (because god knows there aren't enough hours in the day) with shit that needs to get done, it still throws me off kilter and ramps up my nerves.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Travelling with me means being at the airport ludicrously early. I did have a traumatic childhood experience when my family and I almost missed a flight - reasons have eroded but the impact remains - and I still remember gasping for breath as we made it by the skin of our teeth. I hate that 'just made it' sprint. Why would you invite that kind of torture into your life? I'd rather mill about the airport. Boring? Plain? Unadventurous? I'll take it. I'd rather be on time for my flight to hike a mountain in the far reaches of the smoky wilderness.
Oh, and if I am your ride to go somewhere - don't be getting comfortable on your throne (the toilet) one minute before you're due to come out and get in my car, because basically, that is kind of like you shitting all over me.
The Actual Table For One
I have always been the 'Table For One' loser - not that there's anything wrong with solo dining, I love it, I do it all the time, but when you're sat at a table set up for 10, you look like you should be sporting some 'sad clown' face paint with a cobalt blue tear smearing down your face with deflated balloons sagging over the chairs. STORY OF MY LIFE. I am always that person who is first at a restaurant for a big gathering. This is why 'Table For One' is me, my story and my existence. In the last few years though, I sit and improve my people watching skills - may as well.
As always, there are grey areas. There are certain situations where I deliberately WANT to be late. Parties. Who likes to go to parties and be the first one? Exhausting forced conversation with the other saddo who came on time? No thanks. Go en-mass and the one-on-ones will emerge within the scrum of cacophony and other micro socialising. No need to be on time, no one will notice, no one cares, after all it's not a meeting with your boss. Just turn up at some point and make an entrance.
Although I am a real stickler for timing, I really don't take life too seriously. I fall, I laugh, I get up and repeat. But I really think we need to value time - when we are time efficient we move forward; when we're not rushing, we make things happen! But, I realise some (even if they try their damndest) just don't have it in them - even from the moment they wake up, they are already late- whereas me, well, I will forever have my 'Table For One' to think about the hierarchies of lateness as I wait...
So, tardy folk, let the following be a benchmark for timing etiquette: early is on time, on time is late, late is...don't bother, turn around and go home. Peace out.
If I am late for anything in the future, feel free to cite this piece to me and pepper spray me with shame...