#AtoZ2016 : L Is For Late

I think everybody’s late. Yep. That has to be the case. Everybody’s late. Have you seen how people behave? How they drive? How they rush through the stores? How they watch their watches when they’re on the beach?

Everybody’s late. For something.

I first noticed this at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, as I walked along, and took pictures of everything, daisies, roses, lilies, magnolias, camellias, squirrels, birds, ducks. I took pictures of everything. And while I wandered through the garden, I listened to the music I liked, playing on my MP3 player. I was always there at least two hours, and sometimes over three.

I never had a schedule while I was there. Never thought, “I need to see this, and then this, and then this.” Never thought, “I have to be home by this time.”

You do know, don’t you, I don’t wear a watch. I don’t even own a watch.

As I walked through the garden, I noticed other people walking. And almost all of them were walking for a purpose. Walking to an objective, or a goal. They were running a lap around the garden, or walking a lap, and when the lap ended, they left. They didn’t stop to look at the flowers, or the trees. They marched straight through, until they wound up back at their cars.

It made me sad. Made me feel sorry for them. Because I knew they didn’t see the things I saw. Didn’t see the beauty of the camellia trees in full bloom in January and February. Didn’t see the pinks, whites, or reds of those blooms. They stayed to their paths, and got done with what they were doing. And all the colors, all the blooms, all the beauty of the place, wasn’t on the paths. It was between the trees, hidden from the paved walkways.

They didn’t see the delicate beauty of the roses. Over 1000 rose bushes, and most of them walked through. They looked side to side, saw the colors, but never stopped, never took the time to look, and see the velvety texture of the petals, or the morning dew on them.

Always, they returned to their cars, and left. Right on schedule. Right on time for whatever they had next on their schedules.

They race to work each day, don’t they. I know, I’ve watched them. I’ve seen them wait until the last possible moment, then dash to their cars, many still getting ready for work, drinking their coffee, eating a muffin, or pop-tart, or cereal bar. I’ve watched women in the car behind me, as they put on their makeup, eye-shadow, toner, lipstick, and whatever else they use. Makeup is a mystery to me. I found it interesting to watch. But I also knew, they put it on in the car, because they were late. They didn’t have time to finish at home.

I’ve watched men shave with electric razors, as they drove along the highway, at 65 or more. One hand on the wheel, one on the razor, dragging it all over their face. And I’ve wondered how they get where they’re going without crashing.

Always, they rush. Always, they’re late.

Late for work. Late for church. Late for the opening of the store. Late for breakfast. Late for lunch. Late for dinner. Late getting home. Late, late, late.

Did I mention I don’t have a watch?

In the first year I was in therapy, the receptionist said to me, “You don’t have a watch, do you.”

I held up my wrist, no watch on it, “Nope.”

She sighed, and looked puzzled, and asked, “How come you’re never late?”

The simple answer to her question? Because I always leave on time.

And I wonder, why does everyone rush so much? Why are they in such a hurry? Why do they always look at their watches, and the clocks on their phones, and in their cars?

Why are they always late?

I have a doctor’s appointment in June. I know the time. I know the date. I know I’ll be there with time to spare. I won’t be late. And I won’t have to rush, or hurry, to get there. Just like I never race to get to work, where I’m scheduled to be five times a week. And no one remembers when I was late, or if I ever was. I’m not there on time. I’m there early. Always early.

And so I wonder. Why all the rush? Why all the insanity.

Is everyone late?

It’s April 16th, and I’m a still two days behind on the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 14 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.



I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, my left hand locked on the steering wheel, my right locked on the gear shift lever. My eyes raced between the cars in front of me, those beside me, those behind me. I checked my mirrors continuously. I looked over my shoulder to check my blind spots, though I’d carefully adjusted the mirrors to see what was in them.

I drove. In an endless sea of cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, commercial trucks, and giant semis. In the pouring rain. I watched my lights shine on the back of the vehicle in front of me. I had no idea how much I was breathing. No idea what my pulse rate was, what my blood pressure was.

Three fingers on my left hand were numb, and they tingled. My palm felt like I was hammering nails through it. My right wrist ached. My thumb felt like I was stapling it to the lever. My head ached. My knees ached.

There was nothing I could do. Except survive. Except get where I was going alive. I maintained my death grips on the shifter and steering wheel. I didn’t care if my arms went numb from elbows to fingertips. I wasn’t letting go. You’d have to pry those things from my cold dead hands. I could see that, me dying in a car crash, and them having to cut me from the car. “He was still holding on to the steering wheel and gear shift.”

I thanked God for loud music. At least I couldn’t hear the noise of the ocean of cars that surrounded me. I found myself wishing the car behind me would give up, change lanes, and get around me, so I didn’t have to worry about being in its way anymore. I didn’t care if another one took its place. I’d deal with the next one when that happened. When it changed lanes, I took a quick breath, “Yes!”

Then the car behind it insisted on riding my ass. In the pouring rain. I knew there was no way it could stop if I had to slam on my breaks. It would plow into me without slowing down. Another Jeep, of course. “God, I hate Jeeps!”

I blinked a few times, quickly. My eyes felt better. I knew not to close them for more than a heartbeat at a time. I closed them, and I’d miss something. And that would be the end of the story.

“How long is it to the exit?” I prayed for a road sign. Any road sign. There, “Exit 258 B-A”! That meant I only had 3 miles left, then I could get off the damned freeway. I waited, my hands locked on the wheel and shifter. Hell, I don’t think I breathed for during that 3 miles.

As I exited the freeway, had to deal with the next problem. Merging into traffic on the road. I never knew what to do. Stop and wait for an opening? Floor it, and push my way in? Drive down the friggin’ sidewalk until I got an opening? Pray someone would be polite for once, and let me in?

Of course, once in, it was the normal race from stop light to stop light, trying not to get run over by the cars behind me, as cars cut me off to get where they wanted to go. If anything, my death grip on the wheel and shifter became tighter. My elbows started to ache, so did my right shoulder.

“Hope I don’t crack another tooth.” At least my jaw didn’t ache. Yet.

After a million lights, watching a million cars zigzagging between lanes, slamming on breaks and cutting each other off, and wondering if I was going to survive the trip to pick her up, I finally reached the parking lot where she worked.

I turned off the car. Put it in park. And sat there. Exhausted. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Exhausted. And the thought of driving home after she got to the car was terrifying.

I sat there, resting my head on the wheel. “Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.”

I knew it was too late. I already had. And it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

It’s April 19th, and I’m finally catching up in the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 16th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. This one’s for the letter P. Monday brings the letter Q. I have no idea what I’ll write for that.