OP-ED: Punctuality, like cleanliness, is above reproach


On a steamy July afternoon almost 55 years ago, my groom and I stood under the wedding canopy and made some important vows. They involved loving, honoring and cherishing each other.

As I recall, those vows didn't include punctuality. Perhaps they should have.

As much as we love each other, there's a ticking time bomb in our marriage, and it's time itself.

I certainly did not intuit that I was about to join my life with a wonderful man in every way — funny, smart, wise, kind — but also obsessed with punctuality.

I'll be the first to admit that time management is not my strong point. It is, in fact, a profound weakness.

I am chronically, constantly, some might say pathologically, prone to lateness. Vic is, of course, my polar opposite, as happens in so many unions when it comes to things like morning people/night people, neatniks/slobs, optimists/pessimists.

Our very first married argument was on our honeymoon at a gilded Bermuda hotel, centered on what was to become our constant battleground.

My new husband was hungry, dinner was served at a specific time and he was checking his watch every three seconds.

I was preoccupied with what to wear, and not worried about being a tad late for dinner. I learned two things that night at the Castle Harbour Hotel — my husband is really cranky when he's hungry — and we were in trouble about punctuality.

I've had to concede over these decades that Vic has the moral high ground. Punctuality, like cleanliness, is above reproach.

But I hang tough on what constitutes a "tad late," and why extenuating circumstances should count for something.

Nonetheless, Saturday nights are particularly tense when we have plans that involve theater tickets or dinner reservations.

Saturdays are my play days. I dawdle over coffee, I roam yard sales in season, heeding no schedule. And suddenly, it's time to get ready to go out.

At precisely 5:30 p.m. my guy is in the shower, readying himself for our departure. He has built in time for traffic, parking, settling into our theater seats.

I, on the other hand, am typically finishing up some emails, moving the laundry from the washer into the dryer and starting to think about getting ready. But then I make two phone calls — just two.

A snag in panty hose, a last-minute change in attire, and, heaven help us, an incoming phone call, can derail a sworn schedule.

I am painfully aware of a man nearby who is groomed and ready, alternately looking at his watch and pacing. He says nothing, which makes me even more nervous, so I start to look like a cartoon character in overdrive.

Soon, there is a pointed mention, perhaps through clenched teeth, of the dinner reservation time or curtain time of the show. That means that the ride from Point A to Point B will be played out in long silences and occasional sighs.

Ain't love grand?

So what wisdom has come from the beat-the-clock wars? What have we life partners learned over the years?

That along with arguments over why I scatter newspaper sections all over the house, and leave gum wrappers on car seats, and even though he procrastinates about home repairs and cleaning out the garage — we have mastered the art of give and take and comforting each other when it really matters.

We both know that early is better, on time is perfect, and late is poor form.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's always worth it to pause, even when we're both cranky and fuming, to remember how lucky we actually are to have each other. And to say so.

Even if it makes us late.

— Sally Friedman is a writer in Moorestown, N.J. She wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.