That is the question dear Reader, I have been late as far back as I can possibly remember. At infant and junior school, I was late without fail. It was like a talent. Some kids were good at rounders, athletics, football, cricket, gymnastics, painting – oh how their parents were just so proud. I was good at being late. In fact, I excelled at it. It didn’t really help much that my name was first on the alphabetically arranged register of surnames. I had no chance really, I wasn’t even given a chance to be fair, I was written off before I could remotely try.
Little infant me stands outside the bright white door to the classroom hut in the gigantasize soul-less silent playground – had I known the existence of tumbleweed in my 7th year of life, I would have imagined reams of them blowing haplessly across the urban concrete desert.
I do my best to blink as hard as I can to teleport myself to ten minutes earlier where I could have been enjoying myself partaking in social playground activities; drawing out hopscotch diagrams on paving stones in white stolen chalk; skittling down the pointless yellow patterned slithering snake; asking the time of designated ‘Mr. Wolf’ leaping around the painted clock on tarmac; escaping from the poisoned child-being playing tag; showing my amazing ability to high-catch; play kiss chase with the dangerous boys around the ancient sycamore tree outside the Witch’s classroom by the Secret Garden. (This is an authentic memory I promise you, I have not plagiarised a children’s fiction plot!)
Alas, I open my eyes and the bright white door beckons me to hell like the endless doors in The Matrix magnetically pulling Neo to “Open me, open me!” I clasp the silver handle and muster a good kid-jolt as quietly as I possibly can as the door tends to jam – obviously not quietly enough as the wooden entrance to Dante’s Inferno lets out an almighty “CREEEEAAAK!” I slip through the tiny gap, entering the classroom pretending that Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak has enveloped me, more than conscious of the thirty pairs of eyes boring into the side of my face and back of my skull anticipating the wrath of Satan, my teacher, as I attempt to quietly slink to my seat by the ‘poster paints’ area unnoticed.
Mr. Thomas, the Witch’s husband, now half way through verbally advising his little minions of the morning’s planned itinerary of kite-flying, stops, and gives me devil-eye. I imagine the death stare from his male-Medussa forked tongued creatures turn me to stone but with Satan’s black magic, my body slides underneath the table dissolving my limbs into a fury of hellfire, only my little head bobs on the surface of the desk like a vine-ripened tomato on a chopping board. I am most relieved to find that his face has not appeared millimetres before my very own whilst booming his loud heavy voice at my small sensitive child ears as per the day before when I relinquished all care and abandon by mixing black squeezy paint into an entire palette of bright rainbow colours. (Thank God for small mercies, however, I had a partner in crime and we were both suitably punished by deafness for our defunct behaviour).
I promise myself tomorrow I’m going to be early, I can no longer bear the utter absorption of embarrassment and humiliation that lateness brings upon me. I am overcome with paranoia as I try to creep in feigning innocence whilst the guilt flows so freely in the suffocating air around me. This is not healthy, even for a 7-year-old.
The next day, I am late again. And everyday thereafter for the rest of my entire life. It’s not even the habit of a lifetime. It’s a natural flair, survival of the latest…it’s rebellion I tell you!
With no idea how, I gained control of this vile character trait in secondary school (or middle school) due to the fact that my lateness thus disaffected my younger brother. However, the scenario reincarnated itself on a groundhogging basis throughout college, university and various permanent job posts (curiously, I seemed to be on-time for all temporary positions). To the utter disbelief of my Director (in my previous role) – who considered lateness as No. 1 SUB (Socially Unacceptable Behaviour) who continued (to my disbelief) berate me three years into my employment, noting down the time I entered the office into his personal diary to feedback to me at any opportune moment of apparent poor performance.
One day, it will surely be appreciated and/or tolerated and/or accepted, just like every other unsocial and immoral practice has been turned on its head since the beginning of time. Surely I will thus revel in heavenly blissful paradise where I am the same as everyone else, and not the retarded outcast of lateness assimilating to my currently eternal disposition.