I’ve been known to describe myself as “neurotically punctual.” My need to be on time does not come from a place of moral superiority, nor does it come from deep consideration for others, really. If I sit back and analyze why it is so important to me to be on time, I’d have to say that good old fashioned anxiety is at the base of it all. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t know where this came from or why it came about. I was recently talking to an evaluator of a grant I manage who is exponentially more neurotically punctual than me. So much so, it has actually annoyed me at times. (Bearing in mind, of course, that usually the things that annoy us most about others are the reflections of ourselves.) She told me that as a child, she was grounded one full day for every minute she was late when her parents set a curfew. At least she has a reasonable explanation for why she turned out the way she did. I, on the other hand, cannot explain why I am such a freak.
Last fall I got to see my time-related anxiety come to full fruition. My friend Vance and I decided to get tickets to go see Book of Mormon in Chicago. We were all haughty about it, too. Like we are so cultured and cool and then we were all “we should do this more often because we are so evolved and shit.” So we bought our tickets and then somewhere along the way my sister and brother-in-law decided to go too. They got tickets and we made plans to all ride together and have a day of merriment.
The big day arrived and I could not have been more excited. As a means of maintaining control of the situation and, let’s be honest, the timeliness, I offered to drive. Jess and I agreed upon a time of departure and we were all set. But as I was filling the car with gas at a gas station near Jess’s house, I got a text from Jess: “Where are you?” It didn’t take long to figure out after another text exchange that Jess was at my house, and I was a couple minutes away from being at hers. Aaaargh! So after a quick consultation it was decided they would come back to their house and we would take off from there. No biggie, I smugly thought. I had built in plenty of cushion for us.
We got on the freeway and started to make our way to pick up Vance on the fashionable east side. We exited North Avenue, and hit wall-to-wall traffic. I mean, it was a parking lot. At 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday. It was hard to figure out what was going on, but it turned out to be the day of Al’s Run and thousands of people were trying to get to the same place at once. The same place we needed to get to. Damn. My heart started to palpitate a little. I stayed steady, though. This is not a problem, I told myself. We’ve got this.
We picked up Vance who had been instructed to wait on the corner (“Tuck and roll in, baby!” we screeched as we pulled up to him) and when he got in the car Jess and David shared they needed something to eat. We made a quick detour to Koppa’s so they could get a sandwich. I will be the first to admit that this is where things started to turn ugly for me. I waited in the car while the three of them went inside, because I was in an illegal parking spot and I was not in need of a sandwich. I plugged in my GPS and programmed in our theater parking garage address. I could see by the estimated time of arrival that I had 18 extra minutes to spare – and we hadn’t even gotten out of town yet. I looked in the windows of Koppa’s and I saw nothing. Back to the GPS – 17 minutes. Back to the store windows – I see David, Jess and Vance pointing at something in the store and laughing. (My inner dialogue was something like this: Jesus, people! Get your freaking sandwiches and get back in this car!) Back to the GPS – 16 minutes. This business continued until they got back to the car and we were down to 14 minutes to spare. Fourteen minutes of cushion between us and very expensive theater seats in Chicago. Here we go, kids – strap yourselves in!
It was another whole ordeal to make our way to the freeway (because of all these damn runners, seriously people!) but we finally did. I put the pedal to the metal and set the cruise control. Everyone else was happily eating their sandwiches (which I recall had lots and lots of onions on them, as well as some mayo dripping down the side of their hands – but that is neither here nor there.) I was doing my best to not look at the (dwindling) cushion of time on the GPS. We had two hours of traffic to endure, and a lot could happen between now and then.
As luck would have it, we encountered very little road construction and only one or two significant areas of having to slow down on the way to Chicago. The GPS stayed steady with a good thirteen minutes of cushion. Until we got to about a mile from the theater, that is, and then we hit a wall of gridlock traffic. Inch by inch we moved forward, and I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest. Driving in downtown Chicago under any circumstances is daunting; doing so when you have a strict deadline to meet is downright maddening. We eventually made our way to the front of the theater, which felt like pure hell because the parking garage was still two and half long, slow, painstaking blocks away. Jess and David were excused from the car so at least half of us could be on time.
Left only to our own devices, Vance and I endured. We now had seven minutes to spare. We finally made our way to the parking garage. At last! We’ve done it! Level one: full, and seven minutes to spare. Level two: full. Level three: full and I feel like swearing up a blue streak. Level four: full, and six minutes to spare. Level five: full! Level six: full, with five minutes to spare and NOW I HAVE TO STOP BECAUSE THERE IS AN OLD LADY WITH A WALKER. Vance and I were now screaming at each other. “Jesus! A lady with a walker! Are you fucking kidding me? A walker?! We do not need this right now!” We were laughing at our pure horribleness and almost crying and completely freaking out. Level seven: Parked! Four minutes to spare!
We ran to the elevator, got to the street, and ran as fast as our little legs would take us. We got to the theater, and Vance asked where the restrooms were. The theater employee exclaimed, “There’s no time! You need to get in the theater or they will make you wait until after the first act to go in!” So we put our bladders on hold and made our way to our seats. Turns out, we had what were perhaps some of the best seats in the house. We turned to each other – hands shaking, sweat on our brow – gave each other a big hug and commented that we felt like we just won the Amazing Race. We sat down, and with one minute to spare, waited for our chance to watch a beautiful, ridiculously funny and blasphemous show.
And the moral of the story is, if it hadn’t been for that old lady with a walker, we’d have had two minutes to spare. I’m just sayin’.