Anthony Bourdain judges people for being late. “Today, you’re just late, but eventually you will betray me” (the feature on Bourdain by Patrick Radden Keefe in this week’s New Yorker is worth savoring).
His judgmental punctuality strikes a chord with me these days, because five times a week I heap mounds of judgment–some silent, some not silent–on my eight year-old for her complete disregard for the clock. I stand by the door holding her coat and lunchbox, ominously warning, “School starts in five minutes,” and she retorts, “So?” I lose it. I threaten to take away her iPod. I look out the window and report that all the other kids are already gone. Once, when whe was in preschool, I staged a fake phone call to her teacher reporting that Laura was going to be late and so they should just start playtime without her.
Why do I invest so much character assessment in peoples’ ability to be on time?
“If you’re five minutes early you’re five minutes late,” is what my high school baseball coach used to warn. You could tell the truly dedicated players, then–the ones who arrived 10, 15, even 30 minutes before practice and began throwing or hitting off the tee. So I started doing that. I soon noticed that early arrivers were not the starters. The star pitcher showed up on the hour. Getting in 30 minutes of pre-practice work was necessary for some of us, both as a self-improvement strategy and as a demonstration of our desire and commitment to the coach.
So it’s his voice I hear in my head whenever I’m running late (I judge no one’s tardiness more harshly than my own). That suggests to me that the lasting influence of our interactions with teenagers may not be the program we’re designing but the one we’re running without thinking. This cat couldn’t make me a better baseball player in four years, but he could–and, it seems, did–make me a judgmental, time-obsessed maniac for the next 20.