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Late – The New On Time

If I knew I were going to die soon, I’d like to get in the coffin ahead of time just so I could get comfortable. Maybe get a bag of popcorn and a drink and watch the previews. Sorry, wait. That’s getting to the movies early. I guess the bottom line is I’m not a huge fan of rushing or being late.

If you contrast this with my lovely wife, originally from the Hampshire that is New, who I shall refer to as Cynthia, the stage can be set for some tense moments. Cynthia was raised in a family that was known to their friends and relatives as being consistently late. Cynthia’s last name is Berger. Her family’s special lack of attention to deadlines was dubbed “Berger Time”. You know you’re doing something right when you can get your very own time zone named after you -and that time zone relates to no other time.

My mother-in-law, let’s call her Chris, is a ten time Olympic gold medalist of being late. She has been training daily for many years and holds records in chatting events and getting out the door late relays. Chris literally carried her team members in many events. Cynthia, her dad, Roger and sister Kathleen had all they could do to keep up with the high bar Chris set for being late. She was and is a true champion of the late and wears her title with modesty and dignity.

When we were married twenty years ago, Cynthia’s professionalism shined though as she struggled to learn a whole new play book. We started with the movies, taking baby steps towards on timeness. Coming into the theater when the trailers are over, and possibly the movie has begun, is a big overflowing bucket of stress to me. Like most, being late has always been stressful to me. Unlike most, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how many minutes things take to do.

With just the two of us, Cynthia was able to be trained in the ways of the on-time for movies. I think she may have even enjoyed it. Another on-time challenge was the airport. As a kid in the seventies I remember watching the OJ Simpson commercial of him sprinting through the airport. At that point, I had never been in an airport but it made me very nervous and knew that one day, even if I were a fast running back with anger management issues, I would never run in an airport.

For many years I have prided myself on remaining calm when others are not. I tend to be a good watcher and listener, good at following instructions. It’s hard to watch and listen when rushing in late. The watching and listening is probably how I became adroit at detecting funny things around me. Friends think I’m spontaneous, because I say what appear to be spontaneous things – sometimes when done right, referred to as jokes. And if done in an earthy home spun way, possibly referred to as witticisms. These are more a product of yesteryear and may not play as well in our fast paced age of everyone clamoring to have ADD.

But, kind and ever forgiving reader, I must admit that very few things have been spontaneous. Spontaneity makes people late. Most things I have done and a lot of what I have said (joke-wise) has been premeditated. Sometimes “premeditated” gets a bad rap – possibly because of its close association with murder, which, don’t get me wrong, I think is bad and I’m one hundred percent against. Because I’ve been making jokes (unprofessionally) for 40 years it’s possible to come up with a funny line faster than most, and that does happen. But there’s also a lot of premeditation going on. Cynthia knows this by the number of times she hears a funny story before it’s ready to go public. My premeditation may one day drive Cynthia to spontaneously murder me.

Over the years, like most marriages, there needs to be adaptation by both parties. To that end I have occasionally missed the trailers of a movie, shown up to a church service with no seats available and rushed to the airport (never in the airport). Now with three kids, one of which still needing help putting her clothes on, some of my early feelings have had to go by the wayside. And, guess what discerning readers- (leave blank for guessing time) I knew you would. Correct. When being late, the earth does not stop spinning and many others there in time really don’t care (after all, they have their seats). Once you start to get a few lates under your belt some of the stress goes away.

In fact, twenty years ago I could barely look directly into the sun that was my mother-in-law’s late light, but these days I have to say I am somewhat amazed at her talent. The skill at which she is able to take time out of the equation is to be lauded. Some of her time mismanagement skills have been sharpened by her and Roger’s retirement and all that goes with that part of life. But her late “training” will probably never be complete – like a Ninja whose skills must constantly be honed.

Nobody will ever refer to my concern for stressing out about being on time as “Jason Time”. That’s just an uptight guy following the rules. Most of my life I have most unspontaneously prided myself in not following the rules, but at the end of the day my mother-in-law has helped to create her own named time (ie, Berger Time) by truly, spontaneously not following the rules. My hat is off to the real rebel and long live “Berger Time”. A time that is only defined by NOT being whatever time it is supposed to be.

Now, I need to end this story abruptly because my plane is about to board and I’m in boarding zone 2 and I like to casually be standing closer to the gate – not in a crowding-the-gate kind of way, but just like I happened to be standing there when they called boarding for zone 2 – so I can board the plane and calmly watch people board after me – hoping nobody is late.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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