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Why Melissa and I Will Never Be Late to the Airport Again

photo: Marcin Chady on flickr

Have you ever been late?

You probably haven’t. You probably always plan ahead and get everywhere two to ten minutes early. If that’s the case, think of this post as a sociological study into a foreign style of life.

The Life of the Late.

It’s a stressful existence, being late. You’re always rushing out the door, grabbing all the things you need for your next appointment, except you’re running so behind, you always forget at least two or three things you need.

Sometimes these items are so important that once you remember them, you need to turn your car around and drive home. Thus making you even later. Which stresses you out even more.

photo: Jim Reynolds on flickr

Up until a few years ago, I was one of these people. One of The Late. Everywhere I went, I was about five minutes behind schedule. At least I was consistent. I pretty much stuck to that five-minute allotment.

When I got together with Melissa, I quickly saw that she was like me. We were both frequently late, but just a little late. Just a wee five minutes.

Only now that we were together, our lateness was doubled. Five minutes became ten. Sometimes our lateness was squared, and five minutes became twenty five.

However you do the math, it was a problem.

photo: David Goehring on flickr

Not a huge problem, though. Just a little problem. A minor annoyance to us and the people who were affected by our lateness.

That is, until That Day In Sacramento.

photo: David Bailey on flickr

Melissa and I were headed to Florida by way of the Sacramento airport. Like usual, we were running a little late. I can’t remember if our lateness was doubled or squared that day, but I do remember we were rushing.

We were slightly concerned about making our flight, but once we made it to the Long Term Parking Lot and parked our car, we figured we were in good shape.

We gathered our bags and rushed to the bus stop. Our flight was leaving in less than an hour, but the shuttle to the airport was only about five minutes, so we figured we were okay.

I can still remember staring at the bus that was headed our way, wondering what I was looking at. Was it a boat? Was it a
floating building?
It didn’t look like a bus. It was moving so slowly, it was more like a giant slug than a bus. A giant slug with six wheels and seating for sixty.

photo: chokz on flickr

We had no idea why the bus was moving so slowly. Perhaps the driver was calling dispatch. Perhaps the bus was ahead of schedule and the driver needed to wait a few moments before cruising in to our stop. Whatever the reason, we didn’t have time to think about it. We had a plane to catch.

So we hopped on the bus.

I have to say, I fully expected the speed of the bus to increase once we were on board. After all, the slug-pace had to be a fluke, didn’t it? A momentary slow-down in an otherwise-smooth-and-speedy shuttle to the airport.

But no.

As it turned out, there were not one but two bus drivers on board. A trainer and a trainee. The trainee, who I pray to God did not get hired as a full-time bus driver, was driving the bus as if forward movement of the vehicle literally caused him pain. I assume this was not actually the case, but it might as well have been.

We were going about three miles an hour. The airport was approximately three miles away. At the rate we were going, it would take us an hour to get there.

photo: Benard Kok on flickr

Melissa and I looked at each other, unsure what to do. We looked at our watches, telling each other that it would be okay, that we could still
make it.

And then it happened. The death blow.

Our driver was going so slowly that at one point we got lapped by another bus. Another shuttle driver, one who was not physically afflicted by the forward movement of his bus, passed us at one of the shuttle stops.

photo: Toshihiro Oimatsu on flickr

The trainer informed the passengers that, due to being lapped, we now had to sit at our shuttle stop for ten minutes.

The passengers on the bus exploded. They yelled. They argued. It didn’t matter. We still had to wait.

It was in that moment we knew we had missed our flight.

We also knew that, as angry as we were at our infinitely-inept-and-seriously-sluglike bus driver, our lateness was entirely our own fault. It was a come-to-Jesus moment for both Melissa and me.

When we finally got to the airport, we discovered that we had indeed missed our flight. Not only that, there were no more flights to Florida that day. We had to fly to Dallas, get a hotel, and fly to Florida the next morning.

photo: Markus Mindaugas Urban on flickr

You know how they say that our greatest teachers are often the most annoying? They’re not annoying to everyone. They’re annoying to us. They annoy us because they’re pushing our buttons, the parts of us that are in need of examination and healing.

In the case of Mr. Sluglike Bus Man, the most annoying thing about him was a behavior Melissa and I needed to adopt: to take plenty of time to get where we were going.

photo: William Warby on flickr

And you know what? That’s what we do now.

Every time we go to the airport, we tack on an extra hour for unexpected occurrences. You never know when you might run into a Sluglike Bus Man. Or a Deathly Long Security Line. Or any number of unexpected, unanticipated surprises.

I’d like to say that we tack on an extra hour for everything we do, but we don’t. We still play around with that five-minute window. But we don’t double it or square it anymore. We’ve stopped with the mathematics, at least when it comes to lateness.

And every time we’re driving to the airport, I thank my teacher, Mr. Sluglike Bus Man. He taught me a lesson I’ll never forget:

Life always gives me exactly what I need. Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s annoying. But it’s always right on time.

The more I can trust the perfection of what I’m getting, the more I can benefit from it.

Even if it’s a giant slug driving three miles an hour and making me miss my flight.

photo: curimedia on flickr

When has adversity been your teacher? Who were the Mr. Sluglike Bus People in your life?


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28 Responses to Why Melissa and I Will Never Be Late to the Airport Again

  1. Sara Nichols February 7, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I grew up with Late. I came from Late. Growing up, I never NEVER saw the beginning of a movie or play. To this day when I see the opening credits on an old movie that I’ve seen dozens of times, I’ll say, “wow, I had no idea that happened. How cool!” We were hours late to parties. When I got picked up from things, I was also picked up last, sometimes as long as 45 minutes after every other kid was gone (or so it seemed).

    As a young adult I was always 5 behind. I found that the alternative was intolerable. To be on time, it turns out, one must take the risk of being early. If you’re early, that’s dead time–DEAD! So I would shoot for on time, which would turn into 5 minutes late. This was a HUGE improvement on how I was raised. My mother considered me OBSESSIVE because of this insistence on being no more than 5 minutes late. Then one day I took a workshop that taught me to be coached by everything in the universe, EVERYTHING, and it suddenly hit me that there was absolutely no reason to be late. I could shoot to be early and I could get somewhere 10-15 minutes early and that would be okay. The world would not come to an end. I might be able to take a breath. I might be able to go to the bathroom. I might be able to have a chat with a teacher or something. So now, that’s what I do. Except when I don’t…

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Sara,

      Wow, to be Late from birth. What a concept.

      I didn’t come from LATE like you did, but I also made a habit of arriving exactly on time for the same reason as you. God forbid there was some “extra” time to “waste.” I also have had the feeling of being unwilling to risk being early. This is a slowly-changing habit.

      I once heard someone say that she likes arriving places early because then she has an excuse to wait. And when she’s waiting, she has an excuse to do absolutely nothing. I think of this comment from time to time, and I try to practice it.


  2. Francesca February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I am one of those peeps that always HAS to be on time. And then when my friends are perpetually late, I had to learn to accept the fact they are never on time. I use to get so mad. But what for? That is how they operate. So do you trick them into thinking they need to be an hour earlier than they need to be and make them mad? Or just grin and bare it? I remember almost missing my baby brother’s wedding because we left the house too late.Got there within 5 minutes of the wedding start, I was beyond hysterical. So, lesson learned. I have a close friend that will get up hours before she needs to be somewhere at a specific time, and she is still late. Ahhh life, we do need to slow down a bit.

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Francesca!

      I have a friend who is always late. Once, when she was picking me up from the airport, I told her that the flight was getting there a half hour before it was. So OF COURSE that was the one time that she showed up on time. And she had to wait for ME. It probably proved to her the stupidity of arriving anywhere on time.


  3. Jennifer February 7, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    OK. I have to be early. HAVE TO BE. If I’m on time, I feel late. So my practice has been to be a tiny bit late and watch what comes up. And it’s old childhood stuff of course, from Mom getting us kids ready for something and being SO ANGRY we were running late. I’m obsessively early to keep my mom from getting mad at me, and I’m in my 60’s!

    A dear friend is one of the late ones. Eventually, after a few years of taking it personally, harboring a resentment and wondering WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HER?? I decided to ask why. Her answer released and enlightened me. She was late because she couldn’t stand waiting, alone, sitting with the possibility no one was going to come for her.

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Jennifer,

      See, you’re a totally different kind of late person! One who is doing it on purpose as a spiritual practice. Very cool!

      And your comment about your friend is so sweet and sad at the same time. I think there is a little of this motivationg behind my lateness as well. Perhaps there is some of this sentiment behind the behavior of many of the Late. Worth pondering. It definitely opens the heart.


  4. Jill Shinn February 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    This “being late” business has so many levels, doesn’t it? It’s a real indication of where your mind is at a given moment. Sometimes when I’m running late, everything changes. I go from mellow, spiritual person, to mean-spirited, “Get out of my way, old lady!” witch from hell. Other times, a little wise voice in my head says, “You can either freak out, get high blood pressure, and be 5 minutes late, or you can breathe, remain calm, and be 6 minutes late. What are you going to choose?” Of course, being on time would eliminate that whole scene…

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Hi Jill,

      Whenever I’m running early, I’m always amazed at how MUCH less stressful it is. I always tell myself that FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, I will NEVER be late again. And then I forget somehow. Weird how that happens. Writing this post and reading the comments about it is certainly bringing this whole subject into a greater level of awareness for me. I also like your comment that we can choose to not react in a stressed-out manner, even when we are running late. And we can also – often – choose not to run late. So many choices!


  5. Gina February 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I know some of this will sound judgmental (I hate that about myself) but I’m gonna say it anyway, in case it sheds a different light on people who are sticklers for being on time.

    I’m one of those people who would rather die than be late to something. I’ll show up 15 minutes early to the movies so I don’t have to crawl over somebody else to get a seat. I’ll show up 2 hours early at a Giants game so I can go get a drink and some munchies and then get to my seat before I have to craw over someone else. I’ll get to a yoga class 15 minutes ahead of time so I don’t have to make people rearrange their mats to make room for me. All those reasons are mostly so people won’t be irritated with me (because I like to be liked). And when it comes to being early to parties or work or meetings or appointments, I will always be on time for a different reason. I look at it as a sign of respect towards the people I am meeting with. I believe their time is just as valuable as mine.

    Of course, I realize not everybody thinks that way, and of course, I married someone who is perpetually late, so that is my little irritant to deal with in life. And when I invite friends over to dinner and they always show up late, of course I get irritated, but I love them anyway and just put up with it (and have learned to not really plan to serve dinner until an hour after I’ve asked them to be there.)

    But ultimately, we all have the ability to be on time (barring some unforeseen slug-like bus drivers), so the reasons for not doing so will always be a mystery to me…..the perpetually on-time person.

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      Hi Gina,

      Thank you for your comments! I’m really appreciating what everyone has to say in response to this post. There are certainly many different perspectives on it.

      I once heard that being late is a sign of immaturity. Ouch.

      I love hearing from people such as yourself – the perpetually on-time person. It’s a reminder to me that it can be done. It’s ultimately a matter of intention, after all.

      Of course, as you point out, even the promptest among us still have to deal with the Late.

      I think it’s a new form of spiritual practice. Dealing with the Late – whether it’s ourselves or others.

      Much to ponder. . . .


      • Gina February 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

        Agreed! I look at this as a spiritual practice of loving others just as they are. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments here and it helps me to understand and accept that we’re all awesome people, no matter what time we arrive! :)

  6. Jo Lauer February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Thank you for this excursion into the world of the “late.” Try as I might, I’ve never been able to pull that off…something to do with being born a Virgo I’m afraid. I’m also glad to hear that the chronically late actually have an awareness of lateness. Most make it seem so easy. It’s not, let me tell you.

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Hi Jo,

      I find it fascinating that everyone seems to have such a unique relationship with this thing called Late. The worst part about Lateness, from the perspective of one who is too well-versed in the subject, is that it can be very stressful. I think that you’re on the right side of the equation. 😉


  7. michele C February 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Z – Thanks for anptjer great laugh and a chance to see myself…thanks for perhaps saving me from a future slugfest …. but then, so0me things are not meant to be avoided – hmmmm

    • Z Egloff February 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Michele,

      That’s right – the slugs can sometimes save you from yourself. You never know! Long live the slugs!!


  8. Liah February 8, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    I’m one of those split types: chronically late for some things, right on time for a doctor or dentist appointment, and early for other things, especially if it means easier parking or seating. Several years ago, not liking that stress and how agitated I got around feeling like I was late, I started praying that God provide me with perfect timing, every time. Especially when that timing involved rush-hour traffic on a rainy Friday night (which it often did). It took a while, and sometimes I still fret and get annoyed at that slug driver (and we have lots of real slugs in Oregon, so I know a thing or two about them), but when I start to fret, I get gently reminded that while it may not always FEEL like perfect timing, it always IS!

    • Z Egloff February 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      Hi Liah!!

      Welcome!! I love your comment. This is a great reminder for me. Opening up the whole traffic-and-lateness issue to the Source of all traffic certainly makes a lot of sense! I will start using this practice as well. Thank you!!

      And God Bless the Oregon Slugs!


  9. David February 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    You know, interestingly enough, my life changed in a major way after my partner-at-the-time (who shall remain nameless but bears a striking similarity to one of the characters in Z’s story) and I missed not one but two planes within a period of a few months. This created an opportunity for me to look at my beliefs and attitudes abound being on time, which, for me at least, was actually more about my attitude about WAITING. I realized that I less-than-consciously was cutting it close in terms of my time commitments because I just don’t like to wait, don’t want to “waste” my time waiting in lines, sitting at airport gates, etc. Ironically, of course, I wasted much more time missing flights (not to mention missing half a day’s vacation in Maui!) than I ever spent waiting, and I was able to shift things for myself. Now I am so grateful that I always do my best to allow extra time, “just in case.” The result is much less stress, and the only time I missed a flight in ten years (and I travel all the time) was when I messed up and booked myself on the wrong day. I also bought a wireless package so I can work or play at the airport, in a relaxed manner, while sitting at the gate prior to my flight.

    • Z Egloff February 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi David!

      I am happy to see you in the land of the Goofballs! You fit right in! 😉

      That’s such an interesting coincidence that your partner-at-the-time is similar to the Melissa in my story – what a small world we live in!! And thank God for wireless packages. They make life so much more interesting.

      I too have the same issue with “wasting” my time. This blog post and the comments it has generated are making me more conscious about my decisions in this area. One of my practices these days is to spend time doing “nothing.” I find that in those moments that I do have to wait, I tell myself that I’m doing my “Doing Nothing” practice. This seems to make waiting easier. I’m “doing” something. Even if it’s nothing.


    • Melissa February 9, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      I just HAVE to chime in here now….Really – all these references to this someone who resembled me, after all… 😉

      So – I have to say – I am reminded by this reply from you, David, of the very impressive radical transformation that is possible in this arena! I’ve seen it, for goodness sakes! And goodness, indeed…. more peace…more stress-free getting there’s….

      It IS possible to simply shift from someone who used to be late – to becoming someone who is on time. [And bringing material for the peaceful waiting time is the KEY for me! (Duh) I have had that “wouldn’t-want-to-waste-time” thing – hmmm]

      So thank you for the deepened inspiration. Kindle-time! :-)

      • Z Egloff February 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm #


        You DO resemble yourself. I’m just sayin.

        But it’s also true that you don’t resemble yourself, in that you are not late to events NEARLY as often as you used to be. I’d like to take all the credit for this, but I know that I can’t. 😉

        One of my favorite things about us leaving so much more time to get to the airport is that we get to congratulate ourselves that we’ve allowing SO MUCH time to get there. And, of course, we have PLENTY of time to congratulate ourselves!


  10. Toni February 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    OMG, Z! This article had me laughing so loud that my co-worker had to ask if I was ok. You are such a gifted writer, I felt like I was riding the bus with you and Melissa. I too struggle with being on time and I pray that I learn my lesson now! I don’t want to encounter Mr. Sluglike Bus Man! I do want to know how the trainer felt and if the guy got the job. Thanks for adding some cheer to my day.

    • Z Egloff February 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi Toni! That is excellent News. I am always happy to cause disruption in a work environment!! Especially disruptions of the Happy sort! :) XOZ

  11. Susan February 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi Z, I’ve had to run for planes a few (too many) times in my life. The worst was dragging my elderly mother by the arm through the airport because they couldn’t get the wheelchair for us in time to catch the flight. Her poor feet were moving faster than she’d walked in years! I hoped to God she wouldn’t fall, have a heart attack or stroke! We made it…though they closed the door immediately behind us and off we went. Now I make sure I’m at airports way early. I can’t stand the anxiety of running through the airport!

    • Z Egloff February 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi Susan!

      Yikes! That sounds like a close call. I’m noticing again and again on the comments to this particular post that a lot of us seem to have had one experience in particular that changed our relationship with time and lateness. I guess that sometimes we just have to push the issue and see how far we can take it until Late becomes seriously stressful. Or, in my case, causes us to miss our flight altogether. I’m grateful for everything that everyone has shared in these comments. All are great reminders!


  12. Heather March 7, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    I love this article! I had it open in one of my many open windows for days before I had “time” to read it… So I suppose I was late reading this… as with everything else in my life… 😉 My daughter was 3 days late my son 9 and I am perpetually late to everything.. especially meeting my parents for dinner which is usually a weekly event… I show up a half hour late and blame the kids every time… How awful is that! I’m not sure why. I know it takes an extra 45 minutes to get out the door in the evening with my kids because they are tired and what not, but “in the past” (as in I am changing my ways as of this moment) I only allowed 15 minutes to get out the door. It’s not their fault it’s mine for not telling them to getting moving earlier… However maybe this is my mom’s karma, (a late person as well) she was late picking me up for everything… so maybe I am subconsciously making her wait! 😉

    As far as Airports go, my love and I have had to run more often then not… It seems as thought Murphy’s law and Sluggish drivers plague us EVERYTIME! We have missed our flight a couple of times. One time we were taking all four kids to Disney World and we arrived 55 minutes before take off and the lady at the ticket counter wouldn’t allow us to go through security because she said we wouldn’t make it to the gate on time. There were no other flights available so if we didn’t get on that plane we would miss a whole day and 1/2 of our vacation time and we were only going for 5 or 6 days! So I immediately huddled the kids together and suggested they start crying and making a scene about wanting to go to Disney world, while my partner and I pleaded with the ticket counter lady saying we could run really fast and we promise we will make it to the gate before they start boarding… Well I’m not sure whether it was our pleading or our kids awesome performance but it worked and she let us through… We vowed NEVER to be late again!!!

    Although we still have to run sometimes… My secret weapon is my best-friend. She is always on time at to the airport. I tell her what time my flight is and where I’m going and she tells me what time to leave… As long as I follow her instructions exactly it works like a charm! 😉

    Thank you for this blog Z! Keep up the great inspiring work! (Melissa too) You guys ROCK!! xoxox <3


    • Z Egloff March 9, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Hi Heather!

      Great to hear from you. I’m glad you finally had “time” to read the article! 😉

      I like your secret weapon – the best friend with the departure time instructions. We all need one of those. Melissa and I try to model ourselves after her father – he would allow enough time to get a flat tire on his car and still make it to the airport on time. We also still have to trick ourselves and give ourselves a fake departure time that’s way earlier than the time we actually have to leave. Then we can still be late and make it any way.

      Whatever works!


    • Melissa March 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Fun to hear from you here!
      Like Z said – we aim to be more like my dad – drove my mom crazy always being SO EARLY with him – but I bet they never once missed a flight either. :-)

      I have been making it way more on time since this article too – actually David’s reply got me because he and I used to be late all the time – and then after missing a flight to (and, as a result, a day in) Hawaii, he is on time ALL the time now! And as he wrote, and I recalled that complete transformation in him, I realized – “Hey – I can just change that right now! I don’t have to be the person I was or tell those stories about myself – I can behave like a new person” And it’s been working well – mostly…. :-)

      Love to you,

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