If I’m less than five minutes early, as far as I’m concerned, I’m late. If I’m honest – and I would only say this to you – if I’m less than 15 minutes early then I feel the threat, the shadow, the possibility, of late. Which means I’m usually about 30 minutes early. Which means that if you are a casual 12 minutes late to meet me, I will have been sitting there for 42 minutes. Which will make me slightly seethe inwardly and a little more brittle and chillier. Just a degree or two.
“Doesn’t that play havoc with your day?” asks a more reasonable Midult. Well, no. Not as much as the panic and destabilisation that I suffer when coming face-to-face with the prospect of even mild lateness. It just makes me feel mad. Out of control. At the mercy of all the things I am at the mercy of: traffic, public transport, my own human frailty.
And I enjoy the moral high ground that earliness affords me. A really un-admirable part of me likes saying, “I just don’t understand late people. I mean, they clearly believe that their time is more valuable that other people’s.” Which is most unattractive. But I get my comeuppance in that miserable 42 minutes of waiting at the restaurant table, or in the pub, or in the office lobby, or in the loo at a party with a glass of champagne and a bad attitude. My punctuality is a curse. Really, it is. Pity me, you lovely, laid-back bastards.