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‘I really hate being late, but, well, I’m always late’

Jen Hogan: I’ve decided 2024 is the year I’m going to turn over a new leaf and put my tardiness to bed

I’m always late. “Tell us something we don’t know,” comes the chorus from those who know me and are at the regular receiving end of my tardiness. But it’s a trait I can’t seem to change, in spite of my best efforts.

And I really do make the best efforts. I allow plenty of time. Well, in theory, anyway. But something always goes wrong – a shoe goes missing, the bus doesn’t turn up when it’s supposed to, I forget something and have to go back for it, three times. Or the one that haunts my dreams – I’m halfway down the road and though I’m 99.99999 per cent certain I unplugged the hair straighteners, I have to go back. Just in case the 0.00001 per cent proves to be the case.

It’s a trait I’ve inherited from my dad. He’ll no doubt deny this, but I refuse to accept that the blame lies solely with me. I get that from him too. But anyway, we’ve taken to giving him a different time for arriving to places. That way if we tell him he needs to be somewhere an hour before he actually needs to be there, he’ll only be about a half-hour late.

And it’s a plan I thought was working well until I discovered the same approach was being applied to me.


I mean, how very dare they?

The absolute neck of them, even.

Plus, it’s kind of backfired because now I don’t immediately trust the times I’m given, which is really the equivalent of pouring fuel on the tendency-to-be-late flames.

The thing is, that bloody trait I inherited from my dad, has passed down to some of his grandchildren. And it’s infuriating. I watch and see that some, in spite of their best initial intentions, haven’t a hope of being where they’re supposed to be, at the time they’re supposed to be there.

“Why don’t you get organised earlier? Why didn’t you leave earlier? How have you lost your shoe – again?” It all seems so disconcertingly familiar – and daily. “You’re just like your grandad,” I admonish, while running around like the proverbial fly with the blue posterior, already 20 minutes late for wherever I’m supposed to be.

The thing is I really hate being late. I hate arriving somewhere in a sweaty, frazzled, panicked state, already on the back foot and needing to apologise profusely to the poor sod waiting on me. And it really isn’t that I can’t be bothered to be on time for them. It just seems to happen. “What time will you be here?” my poor mother asks with the same naive optimism each time I plan to visit, in spite of experience telling her it’s unlikely there’ll be any correlation between my reply and my van pulling up outside her door.

These days I’ve noticed, quite undeliberately, that I’m drawn to fellow dreadful time keepers. What I can’t work out is whether it’s a subconscious draw, pure coincidence, or just that my friends are wise to me. Frequently when we arrange to meet, I’m even the early one, though still obviously late. And I won’t lie, I enjoy the feeling of smug self-satisfaction that goes with those occasions. Or maybe I’m just confusing it with relief.

But it lulls you into a false sense of security. Recently a friend, who I hadn’t seen for almost a year, and I decided we’d go out. “I’ll book the table for 7pm,″ said she. “Grand,” said I. “Are you here yet?” texted she at two minutes past 7pm. “Can someone please grab my phone? I heard a message come in,” roared I, from upstairs in my house. “I can’t find my shoe!”

I ran into the pub, sweaty, frazzled, in a panicked state and ready to profusely apologise. A woman at a table near where my friend was sitting greeted me with the sort of excited enthusiasm I’m not used to receiving when I’m more than 25 minutes late. I had no idea who she was. Nor she, I. A case of mistaken identity, clearly. But I still considered sitting at her table anyway, because she was definitely more delighted to see me at this time than my friend was likely to be.

My friend gave me that knowing look from a table nearby. I approached with caution. “Outfit crisis,” I explained.

Anyway, I’ve decided 2024 is the year I’m going to turn over a new leaf and put my tardiness to bed. Although I’m probably a week, or so, late to making new year’s resolutions.