I’m not insane because I’m late
I can’t remember the last time I was on time for something. According to the writer Tim Urban, this makes me a lunatic. Or, as he puts it, a CLIP: Chronically Late Insane Person. Urban reckons there are three reasons people are late.
One, they are in denial about how time works and insist that all the things they have to do before arriving at their appointed time for their appointed purpose (packing before a flight, for example, or prepping for a date) can be done in the time it should take, rather than the time it has been empirically proven on many, many past occasions to take. Two, they have an aversion to moving from one activity and on to another, even if the former is markedly more unpleasant than the latter.
The mere fact of change is off-putting. And three, they are just natural self-saboteurs — their own hotchpotch of psychological quirks and defects manifesting in a desire for punishment visited upon them by the ire of frustrated friends.
Era of the smartphone
I, too, have three reasons I am always late, but none of them is insanity. They are: one, child; two, work; and three, public transport.
It is my very great good fortune that the same applies to most of my friends, and my even greater good fortune that we live in the era of the smartphone.
A meeting time, it is fully understood by all, is provisional. A hope. Something between a term of art and a state of grace — something to strive for but unlikely to be achieved in this life.
When people say: “Let’s meet at 8 o’clock” (and any earlier, by the way, is passive-aggressive nonsense from smug, child-free, independently wealthy, non-train-reliant types who just want you to compare their sleek, fatted existence with the fricative, withered thing you barely any more call life), it comes with pages of unspoken caveats.
“Let’s aim to meet at 8, bosses, bedtime stories, replacement bus services between Walthamstow and Marylebone permitting. Whoever gets there first, set up the comms centre, collating the texts, frantic voicemails, emails from work addresses and GPS signals from the rest as they come in, consulting National Rail and Citymapper for those without 4G, offering alternative routes, soothing counsel, encouragement and light benedictions to all those rowing desperately against the tide of circumstances trying to sweep them out to sea.”
What a lovely life
Very few people are properly late any more because there remain only a few fixed points in time these days. Job interviews. Weddings (though even there you can stretch a point — especially if it’s not a church do. I mean, come on. If you’re not making an effort, neither are your guests). And funerals, obviously. Paying your respects begins with an early start.
I would quite like the chance to find out whether I am one of Urban’s CLIPs or not.
What a lovely life I would be living if all the impedimenta were cleared from my path and I were free to skip along it just being me.
I suspect I would still not be hugely punctual.
There is a level of organisation beyond which I cannot rise and my innate hostility to most events and more people would preclude the enthusiasm that would carry me energetically over any difficulties I encountered on the way.
But are many of us really insane? No. We’re mostly stuck on a bus just outside the station.
Lucy Mangan is a columnist and features writer.