Day 28: The Man and the Clock on the Wall

I just had to break down my next week (southern NJ and Philly area store training visits) down to the minute because the stores all have consultants in and out and want to schedule all hands on deck for when I’m there. Time management and timeliness is going to be important because I will be traveling a minimum of four hours a day and will only have at max an hour and a half in each store. The irony of the situation is not lost on a man who is, to quote The Lumineeers, ‘late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life’.

Untimeliness is engrained into my genetic memory. I come from a cultural identity of consistently late people. A Filipino party that is scheduled for 6 doesn’t start until 8. 30 minutes late is ‘sharp’. To be quite frank, I had no chance at all of ever being a punctual person. It gets even worse when you consider my direct family heritage. On my father’s side, being late, and covering up for it, has become an art form.

Consider: We are getting ready for a family gathering that has set instructions to be at the restaurant for a reservation at 7:00pm.

6:40pm – my father decides to take a shower because, as he states, ‘washing my face and washing my body take the same amount of time’

7:05pm – my mother, brother, and myself are all fully dressed, with shoes on, waiting by the door; my father, in his underwear, peeks his head out from upstairs to tell us ‘let’s go’

7:15pm – as we lock the door, my father instructs my brother to text our relatives saying vaguely ‘we’re on the road now’

7:30pm – we are halfway there; another textual misdirection as my father texts ‘we are arriving now’

7:40pm – with 5 minutes and about 5 miles to go, the text reads ‘parking’


The only thing of it is, because our relatives and other Filipinos are so used to this borderline sociopathic disregard for punctuality, they receive it with a laugh and a cheer. Filipinos are happily and proudly late, and my father’s relatives are unapologetically jovial when they arrive 50 minutes late to their own functions. After all, time is just time but the party is the people. This kind of behavior can’t be sustainable long-term, right?

The reason of course is that there has to be some form of pushback. Someone is always watching the clock. I know what my cultural heritage is, but consider I was born and raised in the US. A culture that lives and dies by the clock. It doesn’t matter how much work you actually have to do, how long it takes to finish it, or when you finish it, we sit in our offices from 9-5. Late-comers are shunned and early-leavers are outright expelled. ‘That’s not being a team player’. You can’t get a McGriddle at 10:01am. Thank god they started that all day breakfast program. And then there’s my mother and her family. You know the atomic clock in Boulder, CO? They sync that to my mother’s relatives’ schedules. I have been with them on instances where we were earlier than the people who worked at the location. We used to joke that my grandfather (mother’s father) had to wake up the priest to open the church for him. Their timeliness and punctuality is meticulous and precise. They are demanding, impatient, and rigidly scheduled.

So where does that leave me. How do I reconcile a paternal lineage and cultural heritage with a maternal lineage and national identity. I am a neurotic bundle of permanent lateness and impatient frustration. Try as I might I remain constantly and consistently tardy but in the process I am filled with self-hate and anxiety and aggression. I begin with noble intentions. I love to plan and schedule and account for time. But something always happens. I oversleep. There’s a really good program on. Traffic causing unexpected delays. A distracting conversation. I don’t like how my shirt looks. I am an equal opportunity offender and accuser. Work, dates, friends, personal outings, they all have to eventually account and allow for a good amount of deviation. I find myself equally hating myself, other drivers, ducks crossing roads, alarm clocks that aren’t aggressive or invasive enough, all as equal contributors to my tardiness. I can’t be on time but I also can’t forgive myself for being late. I am my mother’s and father’s child after all.

I swear I thought I was going to lose my damn job yesterday. All on account of my horrible time management. The story actually starts on Wednesday. First day in the new corporate building and not used to having the standard schedule again when I’m not on the road. I arrive twenty minutes late. No big deal in the old office, I could sneak in and just act like I was speaking with someone before. No such luck in the new building. It’s gorgeous, by the way. Arcade, full bar, treadmills, showers, and a mini viewing theater with two large floating TVs and bleacher seating. But it also requires IDs to get into the building. An ID that I never got to pick up in the old place while I was on the road. An ID that is waiting for me inside the building. And the only person I can call to let me in and also show me where the hell I am sitting in this maze, is my boss. Naturally I get ‘the talk’. Parents talk to their kids about sex. Bosses talk to their lazy employees about ‘we start here at 9 and you need to show you can be part of the team’. So I’m already on thin ice with this scheduling thing. Now I’m used to working on the road and working alone with no oversight. I find out that for Thursday, I will be having one of our phone support guys shadow me to see what problems are going on in the field. My boss gives me a shovel and asks me what time I will be meeting him at the first store. I break ground and begin digging my own grave. ‘Oh, 9:30 I’ll be there no problem’. Dig dig dig.

Of course this doesn’t happen. The store is at best, with no interruptions, a minimum of an hour away. I am not able to leave my house until 9am. So many things went wrong between the night before and the morning of. And at this point I hit huge traffic at one of the main junctions, a toll plaza that squeezes a five lane highway into a three. At 9:20, with a good forty minutes left in the drive, I message my partner for the day that I am ‘only about twenty minutes away’. He misunderstands, calls his boss, and says I told him I was an hour away. His boss calls MY boss and now I get a call in my car from a woman who has already chewed me out for tardiness ‘why do I have X’s boss telling me you said you were an hour away’. Dig. ‘Oh no no no Donna, you totally misunderstand. I told him I was only TEN minutes away’. DIG DIG DIG. I have a guy who thinks I’m twenty minutes away. His boss who thinks I’m an hour away. My boss who thinks I’m ten minutes away. AND I’M STILL FORTY MINUTES AWAY. Man, meet grave. Now I am anxious, frustrated, I am cursing silently (and not so silently) at drivers left and right. The ones in the left lane are too slow and not moving fast enough. The ones in the right lane are equally frustrated I assume but are driving too fast to let me in so I can pass the ones on the left. In ten minutes, my entire career could be over. How would I explain this to my parents. My friends. How will I support myself. Who’s going to pay me to blog about being single and lonely?! In ten minutes WHAT IF my boss, already noting my pattern of tardiness, calls me back to see my status. Or calls my partner. Or calls the store. WHAT IF my partner corrects his boss but then she decided to check in on me in TWENTY minutes. How do I tesseract the distance between my point and the point where the store is.

I still have my job. No one called anyone. I can’t keep living like this.

Day 28

Man: 22 Loneliness: 6

3 thoughts on “Day 28: The Man and the Clock on the Wall

  1. I agree with you on the lateness issue. This Filipino ‘norm’ is quite a tick. I had the great opportunity once to study under an English professor who once lived in New Zealand but now resides in the Philippines with his family and boy was he strict about time! I learned through him. I learned the hard way but at least I did. Thanks for reminding me to always be on time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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