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Schubart: Being on time

05/18/09 5:55PM By Bill Schubart
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(HOST) Commentator Bill Schubart explores what it means to be "on time" in Vermont and in New York City, where only a woodchuck would arrive for dinner at the appointed hour.

(SCHUBART) My father taught me to be on time. Being late was considered arrogant and implied that my time was somehow worth more than other people’s.  On my grade school report card, there was a column for "absent" and a column for "tardy." If I was not in homeroom at 8 AM, I was tardy...period.

You may ask, "What does it matter in the bigger picture?" Being late will never be the difference between going to heaven or hell... perhaps a day or two in purgatory at most.

But the voice of my late father lives on in my head and has served me well - until I remarried.

My beloved lived in Manhattan for 31 years. There, public transportation is so bad that, even if you meant to be on time, you’d be late.

During a brief stint of living in New York myself, I had invited a school chum for dinner. He lived in Brooklyn and had to take the subway in for our planned dinner and movie.
               
Had I known more about urban living, I would have served pemmican, dried fruit and nuts instead of fresh sushi, which, by the time he finally arrived, was just learning to walk.  He arrived at my door at ten of two, just as the midnight showing of Midnight Cowboy was ending.

I had finished the bottle of Sake by myself, heating the first seven tiny ceramic cups in a bath of hot water, consistent with Japanese tradition, drinking the next 12 unheated, and then finishing the rest from the bottle. I then tried to tempt the cat with bits of sushi, which were now growing fur. But she had never been outside of the apartment and so had never seen another living creature other than a cockroach; so she just looked at it curiously, but wouldn't go near it.

Why am I telling you this? Because shortly after my wife and I married and she came to live in Vermont, she tried to adapt to my life-long agrarian schedule of rising promptly at 4:30 to milk the cat and retiring promptly at 7:30 PM.

We'd invited friends for dinner. To my shock, she had invited them for 7 PM, when I am usually flossing my teeth in bed. The guests arrived exactly at seven, looking famished. My wife was surprised. "How come they came so early?" she asked me in distress.

"You said seven," I answered, rubbing my eyes.

"But they’re not supposed to come then," she answered.

"What does seven mean to you?" I asked.

"7:30," she replied abruptly.

To my dismay, our guests stayed till the middle of the night - shortly after ten.

In my world, dinner should be at 5:30, and there should be nothing but the faint smell of exhaust in our driveway after 8 PM. However, after a decade of happy mutual concessions, I still get up early, and I no longer fall asleep in the salad course. And, even better, when we're invited out here in Vermont, we no longer arrive during the dessert course.
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