Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm late, I'm late

I have this terrible habit of being late for everything. This distresses both my mother and my husband, especially when they have medical appointments. They like to arrive so early, the receptionist usually is just hanging up her coat and turning on the lights.

“Why does it matter if you arrive late for a doctor’s appointment?” I once asked my husband. “You know you’re just going to end up sitting there with a bunch of germy people for an hour anyway.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “If my appointment’s at two o’clock, I want to be there at least by 1:45. That’s just the way I am.”

So the other day, when I promised my mother I’d take her to her 2:15 doctor’s appointment, she was quick to lecture me. “You promise you’ll be here a half-hour before my appointment? The last time we went, we got there 15 minutes late. I really hate that.”

“I’ll try. I really will.”

“Well, try hard,” she said. “I don’t want to be late again.”

I couldn’t blame my mother for being concerned. I hadn’t been on time for anything in years. And the one time that I actually did arrive on time, it was because I’d misunderstood what time to be there.

All I can say is that on the day of my mother’s appointment, I had every intention of picking her up early. I set my alarm and jumped right out of bed without even hitting the snooze alarm the usual three or four times.

And everything was moving along pretty smoothly…until I looked into the bathroom mirror.

“Ohmigod!” I shouted. “I’m hideous!”

You see, the day before, I’d had a doctor’s appointment (and arrived 15 minutes late) to have a couple small growths removed from the bridge of my nose. After the doctor attacked them with a laser, he’d asked, “Would you like me to get rid of those dark circles under your eyes, too? The laser will really help fade them.”

“Sure, why not?” I’d answered.

Which was how, on the day of my mother’s appointment, I ended up looking as if I’d gone a couple rounds with Mike Tyson. Not only was the skin below my eyes all red and puffy, it was covered with blisters.

I tore through the house, searching for sunglasses to conceal my hideousness. I couldn’t find any. Meanwhile, the minutes on the clock were ticking away. I finally decided that if I left the house right then, I’d have enough time to stop at the local pharmacy and buy some sunglasses.

I slapped on some makeup (which really hurt on top of all those blisters) and bolted out of the house. I rarely wear sunglasses, so my plan was to buy just a cheap pair to serve the purpose.

I rushed into the pharmacy. “Sunglasses!” I practically shouted at the clerk. She pointed to a rack facing the checkout counter.

As it turned out, the only sunglasses the store carried were by Foster Grant. I had the sneaking suspicion that the $5 bill I was clutching in my clammy little hand wasn’t going to cut it.

The worst part was that I had to look into the mirror on the display rack, bathed in fluorescent lighting, to try on the sunglasses. Believe me, I looked even scarier in that mirror than I did at home. Blisters with makeup plastered over them, I discovered too late, looked even worse than naked blisters. I grabbed the darkest glasses I could find. They were $12.99.

There was one woman in front of me at the checkout. I frantically glanced at my watch. I had 20 minutes to get to my mother’s house…15 miles away.

The woman was buying only one item – a can of baby formula. “Do you have a pen?” she asked the clerk. “I want to write a check.”

Perhaps it was just because I was in a hurry, but the clerk seemed to move in slow motion as she searched for a pen. And then the customer took so long to write out the check, I suspected she was doing it in calligraphy. I was tempted to leap in front of her, grab the check and write it out for her.

“I’ll need to see your license,” the clerk said to her.

The customer began to dig through her purse.

“I’m doomed,” I thought, rolling my eyes. “My mother is going to disown me, cut me out of her will, change the locks on her doors…”

“Next, please!” the clerk called out, snapping me back to reality. I tossed the sunglasses and a $20 bill at her.

“Oh, I’m out of register tape,” she said. “Hang on a minute while I get a new roll.”

I couldn’t help it. I started to giggle. “This can only happen to me,” I said to no one in particular.

The clerk, I have to admit, was the speediest I’ve ever seen at replacing a register tape. She then rang up the sunglasses, looked up at me and said, “Oh…do you want me to cut the tags off them so you can wear them now?”

She wasn’t doing a very good job at making me feel less hideous.

I, wearing the sunglasses, bolted out of the store, jumped into my car and headed for my mother’s. I was making pretty good time…until I hit construction in Hooksett and had to sit in traffic for 10 minutes. That did it. I officially was late…again. I figured that my mother would be so upset with me, she’d probably put me up for adoption.

I didn’t even dare look at my mother when she finally got into my car. I gripped the steering wheel and braced myself for the inevitable lecture in punctuality. Instead, she asked me why I was wearing such big, dark glasses…on a rainy day.

I took them off and turned to face her. She gasped, her expression resembling that of someone who’d just seen Frankenstein’s monster.

Funny, but she never mentioned a single word about my being late.