30 July 2008

Tick Tock Ticked Off

Nobody's perfect. Things happen. I know. But, at some point, a line has to be drawn.

You have one yourself: A friend who is time-telling-time-managerially challenged. One who, no matter what, will be late. Fifteen minutes late would be early for them. A half-hour or more is more likely. And they are not bothered by it. A smile and a, "Yeah, sorry," is supposed to suffice. But I've had it. I'm good and ticked off.

I believe giving slack when slack is needed, but there's only so much I can give before I yank it back. I sort of live by the Three Strikes Rule. Once, it could happen to anyone. Twice, well, we all have bad days. Thrice, that's just ridiculous, and a waste of my time. After that third offense, you're out. The chances of plans being made between us are next to nil, and will happen at zero inconvenience to me. Why should I be troubled by someone who can't bother to be on time? The same goes for those who constantly "forget" or need to "reschedule". The chronically overbooked who haven't yet mastered putting a pen to a calendar to note one's schedule. (Usually actors or the representation thereof.) They are the ones I pencil in and call to "confirm" the appointment well in advance knowing there will be a change and use that time for someone I can actually ink. I tend to lose their overscheduled numbers and am absolutely amazed when they call or email with the suggestion of "Drinks?"

Nobody's perfect. Things happen. Believe me, I know. I have forgotten the promise of a dinner, been an hour late due to traffic (and I even left early), and had to reschedule a date more than once. I've had mornings when I've gotten into a time warp and lost a chunk of time. How does that happen? But the winner was when I'd been working at my desk counting down the minutes to leave for a lunch date only to have the friend call and say, "Where the hell are you?"

Writers can trip. We get pulled into our heads and lose all track of time and housecleaning. But never once have I said, "You are really going to have to cut me some slack," because of it. No. That's my bad. I will warn, "You really will have to excuse me. I've got writer's brain and I might float off at any moment," because, when I'm in the thick of a story, part of my mind is always working on it, and sometimes it will cause me to be distracted almost to rudeness. My caveat is not meant as a free pass for this impoliteness but a request for my friends to tell me to snap out of it. It annoys even me.

Traffic is a factor that is beyond unpredictable. And I know that the best of intentions can blow up in your face. The time I was an hour late, I gave myself fifty minutes to get to a place that would normally take me thirty-five. Because it was early in the traffic wave, I thought that would more than ample. I know the good ways to get places. But, that day, it was bumper to bumper at every turn. I zigged and zagged, watched the clock tick away and realized my BlackBerry had shuffled numbers. I didn't have my friend's cell number. No one at her office had her cell number. I didn't have the cell number of the friend of hers we were meeting with (he and I had chatted on the phone but this would be our first face to face). I left messages on their office voicemails and called the restaurant. It was embarrassing. I showed up sixty-five minutes late, nearly in tears. The meeting itself was more business than social, so I was doubly mortified. Fortunately, they were very understanding and were kind enough to order me a stiff drink to help bring my blood pressure back down. We ended up having a great night, and my friend's friend and I ended up doing business together and becoming great friends. Still, you had better believe that when I go to meet him or her, I leave extra, extra early, let them know when I am in the car and if I run into any traffic troubles. The turn-by-turn updates can be a little annoying, I'm sure, but it's just not okay to be late, especially if you've been late before.

A trick I play on the terminally tardy is: "Why don't you pick the time. Let me know what works for you." That way, the ball is totally in their time-constrained court. So I am beyond perplexed when they can still manage to be late. And I'm not talking a few minutes. I'm talking thirty. And that's after they call saying, "I'm running ten minutes behind." I can't say I'm happy to see my friend when he/she gets to my door -- or worse, the venue that I'm already at. Waiting, without a book because I was overly optimistic that this time, this time for sure, they would be on time. I believe in my friends. They are smart people. They should know how to read a clock. And most of my friends are quite apt at it. It's the few, the annoying few, that hold me up. I have other things to do with my time than wait around, don't you? And I'm beginning to take the stand that people who waste my time aren't worth my time.

I don't expect perfection. I know that life, and bad drivers, can get in the way. But I'd like to see an effort made to keep things on the dot, and keep me from being totally ticked off.

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