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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