I’m one of those people who considers herself early if she’s simply at work on time.
I get that it’s annoying. I get it. But it doesn’t matter what time I wake up (between 4:30 and 5:30 each weekday morning), I’ll still be rushing out the door, my two boys in tow as I turn my arm in an exaggerated windmill motion to get them out of the house on time. Some days I throw a little hip into it in hopes that they’ll get a greater sense of the urgency and hurry the hell up.
“Come on, boys, we’ve gotta hurry,” I say morning after morning, grabbing lunch boxes and backpacks and coats off the hooks by the door. “I know I say it every single morning, but today I really mean it. We are LATE. We’ve got to get movin’, spoovins!”
They don’t even ask what spoovins are because they know they’re nothing. I just like to talk in rhymes, even when I’m running so late that I don’t have time to think of good ones.
The problem is, I know how late I can be without getting into trouble. And that’s exactly how late I am every day.
I accept full responsibility for my tardiness. My boys are usually completely ready for school, sitting on the couch watching a DVR’d episode of Wild Kratts, waiting for me while I finish up my makeup and blow dry my hair.
One morning I came rushing into work, having missed our morning meeting. I caught up to my boss and matched my stride with his as we headed to the break room to fill up our coffee cups. I gave him a sidelong glance as we walked.
“I could offer you a hundred excuses as to why I was late and missed the meeting,” I started. He raised an eyebrow.
“But I’ll spare you,” I said.
“Thank you for that, at least, Shay,” he replied with a little smirk. I liked to think of it as a friendly little smirk.
And then there was the time—just recently, actually—that I told him I had to take my son to the optometrist, which might make me a tad late for the afternoon meeting. (Honestly, I feel like the real problem here is that we have too many meetings.)
“Imagine that,” he responded dryly. “You, a ‘tad late’ for a meeting.”
But was he upset? No. It’s like I always say, peeps: Keep people’s expectations of you low so that nobody is ever angry or disappointed.
Some days I’ll come rushing into our morning briefing, my long, straw-like mane flying behind me (It’s funny because I kind of look like a horse), lunch bag dangling from my wrist, a huge smile lighting up my red, frazzled face. I’ll make a humongous deal out of myself and say, “You know, you guuuuuuuuys, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but…
“TOOT TOOT, motherfuckers!!!!” I’ll yell, joyfully making that arm motion that kids who are trying to get truckers to honk make in the backseats of their cars while their parents are driving.
My co-workers will usually sigh and roll their eyes until one of them reluctantly gives in and says, “What?”
And I’ll gasp in shock and disappointment that they don’t know what I’ve done so right today, and I’ll point to the clock. “Um, HELLO?!”
And one of them will shake his or her head slowly and look down to pretend to inspect his/her nails, bored. “Yeah. You’re right on time. Barely.”
And I’ll puff out my chest in pride and smile again, nod, and say, “Yeah. That’s what I was referring to.”
The other morning, I was ready to leave the house five minutes early, which actually meant I would have been at work just in time for the morning meeting—without having to rely on the presence of all green lights and only NASCAR drivers in front of me. I was all excited and started practicing my horn tooting motion.
I stepped out of my bedroom and called out, “Boys! It’s time to go! And I don’t even have to shove you roughly out of the front door today. We can walk in a totally orderly, leisurely fashion because—"
And that’s when I saw it: My younger son, shoes slipped off and resting next to him on the floor as he played with Legos in his bedroom.
The shoe part—that’s the part of the story where you can tell the parents from the non-parents. Because as I’m telling the story, the parents will literally gasp. He’d TAKEN HIS SHOES OFF when you were in a hurry??
I squatted down to my son’s level. “What the—what the hell are you doing?” I whispered. I felt my chin begin to quiver. “We have to go to school!”
My son looked up at me, eyes wide in feigned innocence. “I’m playing Legos.”
“But—" I looked around wildly for a clock in his room, knowing it was futile because there wasn’t one. A single tear slipped out of the corner of my right eye and slid down my face, taking my dream of being at work on time for one day of my life with it as it splashed to the floor.
I rocked back on my heels and sat down, defeated. “But you took your shoes off…and now I have to put them back on and it’s been at least 2 minutes and I’ll never be on time now…” I trailed off as my son looked at me quizzically.
I think he understood that he was watching me go crazy—the really scary, quiet kind of crazy where the person simply learns to accept her own demise—in real time.
But he didn’t care. “Hey,” he protested as I slipped his shoes on. “I want to build Legos!”
“Too bad,” I sighed, heaving as I stood and threw him over my shoulder. I trudged down the hallway to get his brother. “We have to get to school and work.”
“You’re MEAN,” he said, pounding me on the back one time.
“Uh-huh,” I agreed, following his older brother down the stairs to the front door. There was no need to hurry anymore, no need to make excuses. I had finally accepted my fate: I was simply always going to be late.
“I don’t—" he started, and then reconsidered his words so that they could make greater impact. He looked over my shoulder at his brother. “I mean, Bubba and I don’t love you anymore. Right, Bubba?”
My older son shrugged.
“That’s okay,” I said, locking the front door behind us. “Daddy still loves me.”
“Then we will make Daddy not love you, too,” my younger son said without missing a beat.
And somehow, that last comment made it all worthwhile. I caught my older son’s eye as he buckled himself into his booster seat, and we cracked up so hard that we got tears in our eyes. My younger son, having been flipped back over my shoulder and buckled into his car seat, started laughing, too, proud of himself.
Spiteful little bastard. Hilarious, though.
We repeated the line all the way to school, laughing the whole time.
And guess what—I got to my meeting on time, anyway.
To the dismay of my co-workers, I got to use my TOOT TOOT! motion after all. That day, it sounded more like, “TOOT TOOOOOOOOOOOOOT, motherfuckers!!!”
I was so enthusiastic about the whole thing, in fact, that I’m surprised I didn’t rip my shoulder out of its socket.
I’m glad I practiced.