Are you usually early or late?

This is a question I was asked recently, and it made me laugh. I’m always early. Being early was my father’s rule. His definition of late was less than fifteen minutes early. This applied to anything that had a scheduled start time.

As a teenager, this definition of late was maddening. I was the first to arrive anywhere. Sometimes I had to wait for a door to be unlocked, but I was never late. My friends teased me about my early arrival habit, but they also grew to depend on it, asking me to pick up this or that because they knew I would be there early. On Sunday mornings, Dad left without anyone who wasn’t ready when it was time to leave for church. Only once, was I not ready when Dad left. I ran the whole way, but I was in my seat when Sunday school started. Yes, I was on time but not according to Dad’s definition.

As an adult, I can recall the one time I was late to work. One morning, as I drove to my office in D. C., there was a wreck on a bridge (one I had to cross to get to my office). I was already on the bridge when the wreck occurred, so I sat there for nearly two hours, mostly irritated that I would be late to work.

Sometimes being early is not a good thing. For casual get-togethers, where the start time is not set in stone, I have to force myself to arrive “on time” which means the exact moment the festivity is to start. Basically, I try not to arrive fifteen minutes early.

Besides being early all the time, the fifteen-minute-early rule had another impact on my life. At work, I was famous for meetings that started on time. I didn’t wait for anyone. I didn’t waste the time of those who were on time by waiting for someone who was late. With each new job, it took folks a while to catch on, but eventually most showed up before I called the meeting to order.

Patience is a virtue I lack. To combat irritation, I learned to carry something to read or work on while I wait for others to arrive on time.

My kids were raised with the same fifteen-minute rule. Another generation trained to arrive early. My father would be proud.

More by N. R. Tucker.

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