Seeing Time Differently

 

I realized early on that my beloved and I approach time very differently. Case in point: our recent trip. We were going to head out on a real vacation for the first time in over a year. Besides driving to our first stop, we had a couple of errands to run on our way out of town, and the wife announced that we’d be ok if we left at ten minutes to nine on that Friday.

OK, good – I have my mission. Ten minutes to nine. I am 100% committed to that departure time. For the preceding 24 hours, everything I do will be geared toward making sure that at ten minutes to nine we are in the car and headed down the driveway. When we do that, some small part of the universe will be in perfect order.

Now, I know from experience that she doesn’t like it when I hover and look at my watch, so on Friday morning I’m giving her space and doing whatever I can control. My stuff is packed and in the car, along with almost everything else we are bringing along. I’ve patrolled the house to make sure no water is running, the lights are off, things that don’t need to be on have been turned off and maybe even unplugged, the windows are all closed and latched. We’re good.

But it’s past eight thirty and I’m getting nervous. I feel like there’s a doomsday clock counting down. Where is she? Finally, I can’t take it any more so I check on her. She’s brushing her teeth, not dressed, not finished packing. “What time is it?” she asks. “Ten to nine” I say, trying hide my dismay. “Good,” she says. “We’re right on time.”

Right on time?? Right on time??

I swallow my despair and do the only thing I know to do: patrol the house a few more times. We left a half-hour later. Right on “time.”

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    I see time like you and my beloved sees time like your beloved, if that’s any comfort.

    The way my beloved sees time, if we leave at the last possible minute for an appointment (assuming everything goes perfectly), and don’t make it in time because there is traffic on a highway which is expected to have traffic during the time we are on it, my beloved explains that we were late because of traffic.

    I explain it differently.  We left late.

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I think it was Einstein who said that time is relative.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Well, it was right on time. For her.

    • #3
  4. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    My family and I sadly had a funeral to go to on Saturday. My daughter and her three daughters. Husband and son #3 were all going together.

    By Wed I had picked out a dress and found my shoes. I reminded husband to look for a shirt and asked him where his suit was. Sadly, it was all hanging in the front of the closet from the last funeral six weeks ago.

    On Saturday morning my daughter texted me from the front house that neither she nor any of her daughters had anything to wear. I remembered something suitable for her.

    Within the hour she had three small dresses on order at Target, along with a pair of shoes for her. Son #3 picked everything up on his way to our house with a wrinkled shirt, which he ironed. Daughter curled her hair while her daughters were in the tub.

    I stayed the hell out of all their way and we left the  house within five minutes of my goal and arrived at the funeral right on time. As we buckled all the kids up, Daughter said: Like a well oiled machine.

    Amazing. Also, I’m too old for this.

    • #4
  5. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I think it was Einstein who said that time is relative.

    Does a wife count as a relative?

    • #5
  6. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I think it was Einstein who said that time is relative.

    Does a wife count as a relative?

    I like to think of my wife as one.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Matt Bartle: OK, good – I have my mission. Ten minutes to nine. I am 100% committed to that departure time. For the preceding 24 hours everything I do will be geared toward making sure that at ten minutes to nine we are in the car and headed down the driveway. When we do that, some small part of the universe will be in perfect order.

    That is the way I approach things.

    Mr. She was the complete opposite.  So much so that one of our friends–who’d known Mr. She even longer than I had–once said of him, early in our relationship (I was probably grumbling about the difficulties of “on time,” as they related to my beloved), “You know, if you want to go somewhere with Frank, the best thing to do is tell him at the last minute, and he’ll pull everything together and get on the road.  Give him too much notice, and he’ll put things off, and procrastinate and delay, and you’ll never get him in the car or on the plane.  OTOH, say to him, at 5:30AM–‘Hey, we’re leaving for the South Pole in ten minutes!’ and he’ll beat you to it, with bags packed and a toothbrush in his shirt pocket.”

    Utterly true.  And the way I approached time-sensitive travel with him from that point on.

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I think that this is a phenomenon similar to the Scotty Effect, explained in Star Trek:TNG, in the episode in which Scotty, having been lost in space, cleverly placed his pattern into the transport buffer, and was rematerialized by Geordi.  This gave us a chance to see Scotty mentor Geordi as an engineer.

    Picard asked Geordi how long a repair would take, Geordi told him, and Picard left.  Then Scotty asked Geordi, “how long is it really going to take?”  Geordi gave the same figure.  Scotty explained that you never tell the captain how long it’s really going to take.  If you want people to think you’re a miracle worker, you can’t tell them how long it’s really going to take.

    So Matt, it’s possible that your wife simply works a 30-minute margin of error into her departure time estimates.

    • #8
  9. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Something to do with the X chromosome.

    • #9
  10. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    But timeliness is a problem these days, amazing how some people are chronically late.  It never seems to occur to some people that they are stealing from others.

    • #10
  11. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Annefy (View Comment):

    My family and I sadly had a funeral to go to on Saturday. My daughter and her three daughters. Husband and son #3 were all going together.

    By Wed I had picked out a dress and found my shoes. I reminded husband to look for a shirt and asked him where his suit was. Sadly, it was all hanging in the front of the closet from the last funeral six weeks ago.

    On Saturday morning my daughter texted me from the front house that neither she nor any of her daughters had anything to wear. I remembered something suitable for her.

    Within the hour she had three small dresses on order at Target, along with a pair of shoes for her. Son #3 picked everything up on his way to our house with a wrinkled shirt, which he ironed. Daughter curled her hair while her daughters were in the tub.

    I stayed the hell out of all their way and we left the house within five minutes of my goal and arrived at the funeral right on time. As we buckled all the kids up, Daughter said: Like a well oiled machine.

    Amazing. Also, I’m too old for this.

    My sister was not just late, but seriously late, for out mother’s memorial service.  

    • #11
  12. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I am always a few minutes early for everything. My husband would be on time, but he’s learned (happy wife, happy life) that there is nothing wrong with being a few minutes early.

    My sister on the other hand has always been late – ALWAYS.   When we lived together a few years after college, she would get up an hour before I did and I would still be in the car honking the horn when it was time to go.  

    But karma struck. She married a man who thinks being 15 minutes early is on time……and being on time is late.  

    • #12
  13. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Those of us who are time blind have many other sterling qualities. Chill, folks, you have a few faults of your own.

    • #13
  14. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    My wife’s maid of honor was an hour and a half or two hours late for the start of our wedding ceremony.

    • #14
  15. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    The night before a trip, my bag is packed and by the door. My wife is putting things in the cosmetic case around the time the airplane closes the baggage compartment.

    • #15
  16. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    EB (View Comment):

    I am always a few minutes early for everything. My husband would be on time, but he’s learned (happy wife, happy life) that there is nothing wrong with being a few minutes early.

    My sister on the other hand has always been late – ALWAYS. When we lived together a few years after college, she would get up an hour before I did and I would still be in the car honking the horn when it was time to go.

    But karma struck. She married a man who thinks being 15 minutes early is on time……and being on time is late.

    That could be me! 

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    EB (View Comment):

    I am always a few minutes early for everything. My husband would be on time, but he’s learned (happy wife, happy life) that there is nothing wrong with being a few minutes early.

    My sister on the other hand has always been late – ALWAYS. When we lived together a few years after college, she would get up an hour before I did and I would still be in the car honking the horn when it was time to go.

    But karma struck. She married a man who thinks being 15 minutes early is on time……and being on time is late.

    I learned many years ago that it’s just as easy to be five minutes early as it is to be five minutes late.

    • #17
  18. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I get anxiety attacks if I think I am going to be late. But I think Mr AZ goes a little too far – we always have to be at the airport 3-4 hours before our flight.

    • #18
  19. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I get anxiety attacks if I think I am going to be late. But I think Mr AZ goes a little too far – we always have to be at the airport 3-4 hours before our flight.

    Mr. AZ sounds like just the sort of slovenly slacked that makes you miss a flight.

    Kidding! Sort of. But I understand. There are so many unknown variables. Traffic to the airport. Check-in lines. TSA lines. Showing up ridiculously early is the only way to go through the process with peace of mind, after which you can relax.

    It helps if you enjoy hanging out in airports, which I do. 

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Traffic patterns are so interesting to me. If traffic is very light and everything goes well, it can take 90 short minutes to get from Cape Cod to Logan Airport in Boston. Leave 15 minutes later at the wrong time of day and that 15 minutes can turn into two hours added to the trip. It’s really something how the delays build up as traffic increases. You can end up being two hours early or just getting to Logan on time, depending completely on those 15 minutes at the start of the trip.  

    • #20
  21. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Traffic patterns are so interesting to me. If traffic is very light and everything goes well, it can take 90 short minutes to get from Cape Cod to Logan Airport in Boston. Leave 15 minutes later at the wrong time of day and that 15 minutes can turn into two hours added to the trip. It’s really something how the delays build up as traffic increases. You can end up being two hours early or just getting to Logan on time, depending completely on those 15 minutes at the start of the trip.

    That’s Los Angeles going anywhere. When I was driving more I found Waze amazing. It would tell me to leave and I would arrive on time. Or I’d leave and for once be able to tell the people I was meeting when I would arrive 

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    There were two things we had to negotiate to make the marriage survive. Whenever my handy husband took on a household repair, I made the mistake of asking about how long it would take. Always the optimist, it almost always took him much longer. So when he would estimate, I’d ask, “really?” If he really didn’t know, he’d say so; and if finishing would run up against dinner time, he’d wait to start, or promise to take a break for dinner. (I hate cold or overdone food–that’s when I was still cooking.) The one thing he held out on was his doing a task just before we’d leave; it bugged me because I worried if he’d be done, but for that kind of thing, he is almost always ready on time. 

    I have to admit I sometimes lose track of time, so he’ll help me out by making noise in the other room. That’s my cue to wrap up my work on the computer. It all works! We’ll be married 47 years in July–that helps, too!

    • #22
  23. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    To reduce frustrations associated with being “on time” to recurring local events (such as church activities) a couple we knew decided to drive separate cars.

    One potluck dinner we belatedly realized a significant error in the couples assigned to bring particular dishes – Mrs. Tabby and I (perennially on time if not early) had been tasked with bringing dessert, while the couple most likely to be the latest had been tasked with bringing the appetizers. 

    • #23
  24. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Both my wife and I are “J” on the Myers-Briggs. We both operate on “If I am not 15 early, I am late”, so this is not a huge issue. PTL

    • #24
  25. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I have also been amused to observe that proximity seems to affect timeliness. Most of my observations arise from church activities, as that is where I have the most contact with a range of people. The families that live closest to the church seem far more likely to be late (or just barely on time) than are families that live farther away. My thesis has been that the farther you are traveling, the greater your realization that vagaries on the way can cause delay, and when you’re closer, you can easily develop the feeling that you can cover the short distance quickly. 

    • #25
  26. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    It helps if you enjoy hanging out in airports, which I do. 

    I used to.  Pittsburgh opened its almost-completely-rebuilt airport in 1992, and it was fantastic!  The airport (which is large enough to be useful, but small enough to be navigable), became a destination in its own right, as people flocked to the several really nice restaurants (which were prohibited from adding the usual airport “upcharge” to the prices), the boutique shops, and the huge Waterstones Bookstore.  Most of them were at the “Airside” (departure/arrival gates) end of the short subway train ride between the two parts of what was dubbed “the airport of the future.”  And if you or a relative or friend actually was flying, no-one minded arriving several hours early and hanging out.

    Then came 9/11, TSA, and non-passengers were no longer allowed at the gates.  Most of the businesses packed up and left, and then USAirways abandoned its use of PIT as its major hub, and that pretty much did in everything else.  A few years ago, PIT became the first airport to allow non-passengers to proceed to the gates, but the security check you have to go through (I did it once, in 2018) is just ridiculous.

    And now, that airport is about to undergo a more than $1B ” upgrade.  Sigh.  

    • #26
  27. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Both my wife and I are “J” on the Myers-Briggs. We both operate on “If I am not 15 early, I am late”, so this is not a huge issue. PTL

    I’m a 50/50 J/P.

    I’ve been harassing a friend for VBS head counts for crafts and science and she keeps telling me the numbers are meaningless because they can change. I want to tell her that’s not how I work! I must plan ahead so that I can be flexible later.

    So I’m with Matt on the leaving time. But I’m more flexible if things don’t go according to plan.

    Funny story, I had my entire family ready to go and in the car at 9am on Thursday for our vacation, only to discover I was a good 24 hours early. We had to make other sleeping arrangements. I was not going back, lol.

    • #27
  28. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I like to be a “right on time” guy. Not 15 minutes late or 15 minutes early. I think it is an artifact of nearly 15 years of doing Shuttle navigation including 11 years as a rendezvous nav engineer. It doesn’t matter if you are early or late, orbital mechanics puts you five miles away from your target for each second you are early or late. You can make up some of that (either way), but better to be on time. Do that long enough and it leaks over into the rest of your life.

    • #28
  29. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    I worked with a woman who was an immigrant from Germany. She was scheduled every day at 8 AM. Every day she would show up every day at 7:45, sit down, watch the time clock and punch in right at 8 AM. The funny thing is our company allowed workers to punch in up to 5 minutes early. I asked her why she didn’t take advantage of this and she looked at me like I was asking her to commit some kind of Germanic blasphemy. She was scheduled at 8 and come hell or high water she’ll punch in right at 8. Sometimes stereotypes are true.

    • #29
  30. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    thelonious (View Comment):
    I worked with a woman who was an immigrant from Germany.

    East or West Germany?

    • #30