Or a lesson in picking one's battles

To be late is to waste other people’s time. It is very, very rude. I truly believe this. When my perpetually late husband revealed to me during our courtship that he would rather be late and let other people wait for him than to be on time and be forced to wait for other people, I was horrified. “How arrogant!” I thought. “How RUDE. And next time you make me wait, sweetheart, how much trouble are you going to be in!”

I am one of those people who would prefer to turn up 20 minutes early for any appointment and bide my time. I get anxious when I am running late for fear I might leave someone to wait for me, and as they wait to think ill of me. To tote up my shortcomings. To think, “I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing her anyway.”

I sweat. I fret. I would much prefer to be the one whose time is wasted, who spends precious minutes in the doctor’s waiting room catching up on the nude lip trend of the winter of 1995, or cooling my jets at the cafe with a latte while friends circle the block looking for a park.

Or so I have always thought. The past seven years with Mr Latepants Waitforme have changed me. My resistance has been chipped away. I have not been able to maintain my fierce irritation in the face of so many occasions of suspended animation. I have other stuff to worry about. So now I, too, am perpetually running five to 20 minutes late. I am not proud of this but I must admit it adds a certain frisson to a humdrum day.

For example. We had tickets to attend the Auckland opening night of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of La Sylphide, a pretty, lyrical little ballet that I enjoyed tremendously. Once I got there.

We left the house at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm performance. Now, if I still lived in Gisborne this would be fine. Normal. But living in central Auckland means this a choice only a fool or adrenaline junkie would make. At 7.16pm Mr Waitforme received a text from one of our three beautiful nieces who were attending La Sylphide with their mum. “We're here, where abouts are u?”

A minute later I received the same text. “Gosh, they really ride you hard,” said my husband. “Oh, they’re just bored cos they arrived at the ballet half an hour early,” I said, smugly.

As we sailed down Kepa Rd I remembered that the Aotea Centre locks latecomers out of performances. That you have to wait for the interval. I could just imagine how this would strike my husband—40 minutes on a black sofa, reading the programme, intolerable!—so concocted a back-up plan. If we were locked out of the first bit, an add-on called the Dances of Napoli presumably intended to make punters feel they were getting their money’s worth out of the short-and-sweet La Sylphide, we would decamp to Borders for a browse.

I could show off the lavender filofax I had recently admired at the Sylvia Park Borders (before I saw the $233 pricetag and had a very loud negative reaction to the news). We would peruse the bargain tables. It would be fine.

Stopped at the lights at Albert Street I was almost sure we would be locked out of Dances of Napoli and felt sad about this. Also, I wanted to see my friend who lives in Wellington and was in town for the ballet. Poop. To distract myself I sang along to Devo’s Whip It, performing my own hand dance. “Break your mama’s back...umhmmm...”

Undaunted, hubby gunned it down the slope into the Civic car park. Staff in yellow vests stepped out from their little cubicle in a “maayte, what’s your story?” sort of way but we kept wheeling round the car park like boy racers. Yee-ha. Later, we found on our windshield a cross note from the yellow vests alerting us to the car park’s 10kph speed limit and warning us that next time we tried to park there our car might be towed.

We snorted. Unimpressive, I know. This is not the sort of behaviour responsible adults engage in and yet it was pretty funny. Cos the yellow vests had to hunt down our car to leave the note, perhaps even replaying surveillance camera footage to see which floor we ended up on. That must have taken some time.

We jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs towards Aotea Square. “This is exciting!” I said. “That’s the spirit!” said hubby.

He fleet-footed it past the construction barriers. I had to slow down to negotiate wet concrete in pointy boots. Felt winded. But up ahead I saw other late comers jogging across the foyer. Excellent. We were the last ones to take our seats. The lights were already dimmed and the dancers were just trit-trotting onto the stage, all glowy and warm. Lovely. The efforts of the dancers on stage were intensified by my own recovery-breathing. We were simpatico.

For Mr Waitforme this was the ideal result—not a moment was wasted in preparation for our night at the ballet. He waited for no-one. I was happy because I was not locked out and got to see my friend. I do believe we are tempting fate, that one day this practice will bite us on the bum. But not this night my friends, not this night.

Comments (4)

by Ian MacKay on September 02, 2009
Ian MacKay

If you are early, there will not be anyone there to applaud your cleverness. So by my logic, late is wonderful - except when catching a plane.

by Tim Watkin on September 02, 2009
Tim Watkin

We really left at 7.10pm... It was only those red lights on Albert St that put the whole enterprise at risk.

by Eleanor Black on September 03, 2009
Eleanor Black

Bollix, Timothy.

by Debbie Watkin on September 05, 2009
Debbie Watkin

This tale of a very close call really made me laugh out loud; picturing you both on your precious night out, hooning along with Tim at the helm!  He may well say "Better late than never", but I say "betterneverthanlate", especially for a ballet !!!

The importance of promptness was recently made forever memorable to Rhiannon and her colleagues who study with her at the Australian Ballet School. At the beginning of the week the students had all been told they needed to attend for the entire 45 minute warm-up lesson that was scheduled before their classical class, only to find that arriving 2 minutes late meant they were barred from joining in on both the warm-up and the lesson that followed.... and expected to stand in the corridor and watch through the windows. Effective consequences are what it's all about......and for the students both in the class and those locked out of the class, they learnt a good and memorable lesson that day.

I'm on your side Ele and having had to spend some time "in the corridor", I'm keen not to repeat the experience. May it be an experience you (and Tim) never have to share.

 

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