Friday, August 13, 2010
It feels like everything started in NYC for some reason. On December 10th 1999, I stood at night in front of the huge public library on the corner of 42nd St and fifth Ave in Manhattan waiting for a friend to arrive, so that we would go have dinner. I was new in town, new to America. It was dark, very cold and a bit scary I admit. All I knew about the US was the violence I saw in movies and I didn't spend enough time (4 days by then) to realize that the movie industry is NOT a mirror of reality. Naturally I thought someone would drive up the avenue and open fire randomly and I would lose my precious life at 26, way too young and premature not to have the opportunity to go through the adventures I was about to experience. I stood there wondering when would my friend arrive. I thought seven means seven but it' was 7:15 now and he was not there yet. Silence prevailed in the cold darkness, with the exception of some yelling here and there from couple of homeless people, but as long as they were far away, I didn't mind their words and their lectures and gestures to themselves. The light in the street was flashing annoyingly. It refused to give steady beams, but lit nervously as if it was giving some sort of warning that it was not safe there. The last thing I needed while I was waiting, was more signals about the lack of safety. And while I was distracted staring back at it, a sudden loud sound of pulling a knife or more like a sword from its case took place right by my right ear. I looked with alert and wanted to beg "spare my life please, it's not my time to go yet". But the sound turned out to be a can of coke being opened, and the smelly dirty Knight sat down on the stairs couple of feet away from where I was standing. I was wondering why he was covering his coke with a brown paper bag. I looked at the bag then up to him, I was able to see that he had lost most of his teeth in a battlefield through the big smile he cracked on his hairy face. I moved a bit farther after the smell of alcohol found its way to my nose, and after figuring out that beer is never coke or you would be sued by CocaCola for hiding their healthy drinks in paper bags. I forced a pale smile on my face so that I would not socially offend him with my behavior of stepping away (or maybe because I was scared, I don't remember). I looked at my watch, it was 7:40 pm. God damn it! Forty minutes was kind of offensive to my valuable time (Yes, I had nothing to do, but still, I mean had I known he was going to run so late, I might have established a friendship with one of the three homeless guys who were protecting me and entertaining me through my waiting agony). I then started hearing, or maybe noticing that I started hearing the police car-sirens. Must be someone running away from the police in Manhattan. Wow, no one helped me with that conclusion, but also no one told me that the one on the lose, could be hiding somewhere in the closed Library. I looked back, thank God, he was not behind me, but he could approach any minute and take me as a very important ransom. What do I do? I have an idea, maybe curse my friend a little bit more.
Then God called my name, oh my name sounded like music when God uttered it. I looked up to see where he was calling from. But the car honking kind of ruined that fantasy and God's voice transformed into my annoying friend's voice calling me and waving "Here here in the car". I ran into the car and without a word I jumped into the backseat and yelled "Drive the car, drive away!!!" I had no idea whose car it was or who the driver was. Turned out that it was the car of the son of a co-worker where my friend worked. I looked at my watch and it was slightly past EIGHT. I asked "What? Don't they do the daylight saving time in NY?" My friend, without even an apology but with a big smile on his face said "Tony, you're not in Syria anymore, it doesn't work the same way here in the US. People run late here, things happen".
It's been over 10 years since that first late experience. And I'm still making it on time. As a matter of fact, even writing this blog has Friday midnight as a deadline and not once I was late. Sometimes I wonder if it's all a coincidence. I mean when there's so much traffic on the freeway, or when your garage door doesn't open, or when your alarm refuse to alarm you, or when you could not find parking, or when you forgot to iron your shirt, or when you had a last minute food poisoning, or when you got up at night and walked in your sleep to your boyfriend's or girlfriend's apartment. Is it all a coincidence or those things just don't happen to me!!!
Initially the most creative "Late excuses" I heard were when I was first assigned as a manager. At one point shortly after, I knew who's saying what, or who's using which. And it was always the same people. The pattern was not random. When I felt that "I heard it all before", it got boring hearing "My car won't start, no no, my car key was lost, we found it on the couch between the pillows, I had so much sex last night; I couldn't fix my hair this morning (but you're bald!!), my grandfather died (for the third time this year?)" I mean come on, all that has already been used before, be more creative.
Running late has always been something I frowned upon since I was a teenager. When my friends who lived 10 minutes walk away from my place, arrived 15 or 20 minutes late while I'm waiting in the street, I would give them a piece of my mind. I have always felt that it's disrespectful to make someone wait for you. But now I know that there are some people who just don't make any kind of effort to make it on time to….. anything really. It's a pattern, when you run late to work every day. When they tell you report to work every morning between 8 to 8:30 and you always arrive at 8:40, what makes you think you'll get anywhere else on time? My problem with that is when I have to make the effort and ask instead of getting a courtesy phone call or text saying AHEAD OF TIME that "Sorry I'm running late". Some people love to be street smart and say "I told you around 9" and they argue that around 9 could mean 9:30 or even 9:40 and when you try to explain that around 9 also could also mean 8:45 all the way to realistically 9:15, they say "Well sorry dear, I didn't think you wouldn't know what around 9 means". But the second time around they text you PAST 9:30 that they'll be arriving around 10 because of ….. unforeseen circumstances.
When you already run late, what piece of information or what news are you providing when you then decide to declare that you're running late? Don't you think it's already late to make that announcement?
I have always had a problem with people running late. They say "Late is better than never". I sometimes beg to differ on that one, sometimes not all the time, because I'm still waiting for the lottery, for that one I'm okay with it being late. Running late occasionally happens. But running late all the time is disrespectful and it's an expression of carelessness. What makes it even worse, is when people aggressively defend it upon being confronted with it. Now, I move on, I simply make other plans. And when I ask you if you're running late and I add "Again?" Chances are you won't find me when you arrive. Sorry and I know it's ….. my loss. But I'm willing to take my chances …..every single time, unless of course I'm in NYC in Manhattan at 7 pm on a cold dark winter night in front of the public library…