I am a punctual person. In fact, I am so punctual, you could set a clock by me. I know this because whenever I show up at my boss’s office for a meeting, he’ll look up at me in surprise and say, “Oh, is it 10 o’clock already?”
You could probably count on one hand the number the times I’ve ever been late in my life. And invariably my lateness is the fault of someone else. Like the time I missed my connecting flight home to Singapore because the plane was sitting on the tarmac in London for three hours.
“I want compensation,” I told the counter staff when I finally arrived in Dubai. “My entire day’s schedule in Singapore is now ruined because of you.”
“But sir, it’s not our fault!” the woman bleated helplessly. “The plane was delayed because of a snow storm! We can’t be responsible for a snow storm!”
“I don’t care! I am never late and now I am because of you! Do you really want me to Tweet about this?”
Which is how I ended up with an upgrade to Business Class.
Saffy was impressed. “Really?” she asked when I finally showed up in the little flat I share with her and Amanda. “That’s how you get an upgrade?”
“It wouldn’t work with you, of course, because you are always late,” I told her, “and people can tell when you’re fibbing! Like that time you missed your flight home from Hong Kong!”
Saffy opened her mouth but her heart wasn’t in it. Her formidable chest deflated.
She’d arrived early, feeling really pleased with herself. With so much time to spare, she decided to nose around the bookshop. Somehow, she found herself in the soft-core porn section of the bookshop. Which, in the general scheme of things, is kind of like given candy to a diabetic. Unaccustomed to this kind of reading material at any of the terminals at Changi, Saffy proceeded to rifle through the magazines. “I swear, if my daughter ever ended up in porn, I would just kill her!” she told us later.
She was so engrossed she completely missed the boarding call for her flight. When she arrived at the gate, puffing and red-faced, she hotly denied that any public announcement about CX739 had ever been made. “In English or Canto-pop!” she emphasised.
For reasons that remain unexplained to this day, the airline put Saffy on a plane to Sarawak where she overnighted before catching the Singapore-bound flight the next morning.
She missed three committee meetings and an important presentation to the board.
“They never announced my flight!” she told anyone who would listen while swearing Amanda and me to secrecy about her porn fix.
Of course, if I’m always early, everyone I know is always late.
“I’m just ironing my shirt now!” Barney Chen once said cheerfully to me over the phone.
“You were meant to be here half an hour ago!” I shouted.
“I’ll be there soon. Just go ahead and start without me! My God, it’s so stressful meeting up with you!” Barney growled. In the background, I could hear the spritz of the ironing water bottle. “Why are you always on time?”
My mother says it’s in my genes. “You were born on exactly the same day my gynaecologist said you would! I think you got it from your daddy. Remember that time we were on our way to that concert and there was a traffic jam and he literally got out of the car to start directing traffic?”
So, that’s my excuse. My father. He’s the one who made me the way I am today, I say to myself resentfully every time I’m sitting in a café or in a board-room or at the cinema waiting. And waiting.
Messages pinging on my phone slowly build up into a simmering rage. I’m so sorry. Running l8! Just leaving the office now. Stuck in traffic jam. PIE is backed up! Go ahead and order first, am almost there. Am 10 min away. Sorry! R u there yet – am on my way! 5 min away. Am walking there now. I see the restaurant! Am here! Where are you?
Amanda says a traffic jam is a legitimate excuse for being late, to which I say people should factor that in before they leave their office.
As Ellen Degeneres once pointed out, "How do you think I got here on time? Helicoptered in?"
Sharyn says only single people with no children talk like that. “I tell you, ah, you have children, you always late, one! Con-firm!”
I look at her with pity. Clearly she didn’t have superior time sensitive genes to pass onto her children in the first place though Amanda says I should never say such things in public.