The girl was already ten minutes late. Checking the time on my cell phone yet again, as I’d done about fifteen seconds earlier, I saw that it had just turned 3:11. Now I wasn’t only irritated that she was late; she had also reminded me of a crappy band. I walked down to the other end of the subway, thinking maybe I had misunderstood the meeting point. Nope, no girl. We had already gone on one date, a few days earlier, and she was late to that too.
“I can’t build a relationship on a foundation of tardiness,” I said to myself, fuming. “All I want is a girl who is funny, somewhat attractive, and puts value on punctuality. You know what? I could even let the ‘funny’ prerequisite slide. And the attractive bit too. But punctuality…I’m not willing to drop that. What time is it again?”
3:15. I thought about leaving. Yeah, that’d send the message loud and clear. No, that would be wrong. I couldn’t just leave. That would stick me with a boring and depressing Saturday. “Relax,” I told myself. “She’s on KPT. It’s cultural.”
I should mention something important: I am a madman when it comes to being on time. I’m never, ever late to anything. In fact, I’m typically early. Extremely early. If my friends put something together, I will be the first person at the meet up point. Guaranteed. If there’s a concert, it’ll be me and the venue staff hanging out in the club seconds after the doors open. I can’t help it. Being late fills me dread and anxiety; what if my friends leave because I’m not there or if I show up to the concert and it’s already started? I can’t stand the idea. In the future, if I ever impregnate some lucky lady, I’ll probably be chilling in the hospital room sometime around the 6 month point.
My future baby mama will eventually show up, sweaty and breathing heavy, and I’ll just look at her, shaking my head and tapping my watch.
Time, people! I acknowledge that my obsession with being early is ridiculous. For this particular date, I was a whopping 45 minutes early. I went and got an egg sandwich and a cup of coffee to kill time. The worst part was that I knew I had to keep the eggs and coffee secret, because I didn’t want to tell the girl that I showed up 45 frigging minutes early to our date. That’s not a cool move. It’s the move of a desperate and anxious man, reminiscent of how Pee Wee wore a condom to his date in Porky’s.
It’s not my fault, though. My dedication to promptness is part of my racial identity. See, I was informed of this back when I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had a friend named Mike who was at least twenty minutes late every time we planned to hang out. Sometimes he’d be so late I didn’t think he was coming at all. After the second or third time, I had to say something.
“You’re killing me, man,” I said. “I’m sitting here alone at the bar like a loser.”
“What time did you get here?”
“We said 7:00, so I got here at like 6:50.”
“6:50! What the hell did you get here at 6:50 for?”
“What? We said 7:00. I wanted to be a little early.”
“Man,” Mike said, looking at me like I was crazy, “don’t you know about CPT?”
“No,” I said, finishing my beer. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Colored People Time,” Mike said. “Am I the only black friend you have? If I say 7:00, man, you got to know I won’t really be here at 7:00. I’m on CPT. 7:00 means I’ll roll up here around 7:15.”
“So you’re saying you’re late because you’re black?”
Mike ordered his beer. “Or you’re here at 6:50 ‘cause you’re white.”
It seemed like a ridiculous generalization, but could Mike have been onto something? Could it be that my white heritage was, subconsciously, causing me to be really neurotic about punctuality? I’ve always tried not to be a typical white person. In the end, though, I suppose I’m fairly typical. I see myself portrayed scarily well on the “Stuff White People Like” website, and when I watched The Wire, as much as I wanted to be Stringer Bell, I sadly related more closely to the Pryzbylewski character.
Strangely, after Mike explained CPT to me, I’ve heard other people refer to their racial background to explain being late too. Sis is late every time we hang out because she’s Filipina and, as she’s informed me, Filipino people are always late. Multiple Korean people have been late to things and have told me that it’s Korean culture to always run a bit behind. Special K is white and she’s always late for everything, which leads me to believe that in actuality, all people are typically slightly tardy for things except for me. Maybe WPT doesn’t stand for White People Time, but actually stands for William’s Punctuality Torment, and refers only to the annoyance I feel when always beating people to bars or to restaurants.
My date finally arrived at 3:18. She apologized for being late and we went and had a nice time. I couldn’t hold the tardiness against her. She’s a cute girl, and I wouldn’t want to run the risk of being culturally insensitive. The world, I think we all can agree, just doesn’t have time for that.