Dec 18, 2019

The Late and the Dead

By Ed Goldman
Are you one of those people who (ha-ha!) just can’t seem to be in time for anything, no matter (ha-ha!) how hard you try, gosh darn it?
If so, then please leave directly for Hell (ha-ha!). I realize you’ll be tardy in arriving but at least you won’t be able to do any more harm to humankind.
Face it: You’re selfish. You’re a narcissist who expects time itself to conform to your stupid, easily cured flaw. You don’t give a damn about the people waiting for you to arrive—and, in fact, you may be convinced that they all get a tremendous kick out of your perennial, perpetual rudeness.
The Late One finally shows up and expels a series of excuses we’ve all heard before…
“Oh, that Marla! Always late!”
“You know, I think Ted may have been born at 10 months, not nine. He just wasn’t ready in time!”
Hohohoho! Wotta panic! Hey, ya gotta love him or her!
No, we don’t. And let’s substitute “it” for “him or her.” For why should we treat as a person someone without the slightest regard for our being persons, with real lives and possibly just as crowded schedules?
Is there someplace that reasonably punctual people like us can go to reclaim the minutes (and sometimes, hours) we expend watching out our living room window for a car to pull up? Or staring at the inside of a restaurant door waiting for it to burst open and expectorate our bundle of joy to the bar (where we’re all waiting since the host won’t seat our party until all of us have arrived)?
What I hate is when The Late One finally shows up and dances merrily through a series of excuses we’ve all heard before. And what I hate even more is when I know The Late One is lying through his or her teeth.
A number of years ago, a woman who ran a nonprofit program here in the capital was supposed to chair a meeting I was part of. But she called at the meeting’s scheduled start time to say there’d been a major car crash a few hundred yards ahead of her on the interstate. “The freeway’s a parking lot,” she said, exercising her God-given right to use one of the world’s most exhausted clichés.
Our cellphones didn’t have the capabilities they have now to monitor cop calls and pornography preferences but what mine did have was the phone number of a friend of mine who worked in Dispatch at the California Highway Patrol. I called him and asked if there were any “Sig Alerts,” as west coast radio stations call them, in play. “No, sir,” he said in his thick Arkansas drawl. “In fact, the traffic’s as smooth as—.”

Let it be known that the CHP dispatcher did tell me what the traffic was as smooth as. It was a comparison you might use when chatting over beers with a fellow peace officer, longshoreman or United States Marine—though perhaps not with your child, religious confessor or unprepared recipient of this column, one of whom, a female banker (and dear friend) described as “G-rated reading for adults.”

In any event, I told everyone at the meeting what I had just learned about our chairperson’s alibi. To a one—and to my utter surprise—we all immediately vacated the premises. I’ll never really know what the chairperson’s reaction was when she arrived a half hour late to find an empty meeting room awaiting her. The following day, the executive committee fired her “for cause” and via fax. Yes, it was that long ago. We might have even called it a “telefax” back then but at least we’d got past calling it, with Irish accents, “the accurs’t work of the Divvil himself!”
Before I sign off today—and, ironically, possibly too late in your opinion—I’d like to point out that the dispatcher’s comment was not that the traffic was “as smooth as a baby’s bottom.” I’m sure we all could have processed that, even in a G-rated column for adults.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).