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Suburban Island

Time Trips Me Up
Friday, Apr. 01, 2005, 8:56 p.m.

QUESTION: Is time really relative?

What I learned: Think about a spare key.

Time is my enemy.

It really is.

Not because I am aging at the speed of light – especially since I now have a teen in the house with a learner’s permit and another in her first year of college still under my roof. Not because I have an unquenchable desire to be eternally 29 throughout my adult life like the chick in that cosmetic commercial who gets away with lying about her age all due to the wonders of modern lotions. I just want to get to things on time and I have a hard time accomplishing this some days.

Like yesterday…

I had an appointment in morning. I was late. I shouldn’t have been late. Except I was. Because being late is like a calling, or an art form, or a challenge. Because no matter how well I plan things, in the end there is always something – some forgotten matter, some suddenly pressing work task, some lost item of apparel, some household task, or some maternal duty that causes me to become distracted from my goal of timely arrival at my destination.

I had time to think about this while I was sitting, and sitting, and sitting in my car. In the traffic jam. Because we all know that whenever we really need to be somewhere there will be traffic jam between us and our destination.

So there I sat in my car on a road that looked an awful lot like a parking lot and my destination rising up – so close and yet so unattainable in the near distance, I thought I couldn’t be late (again). But I was late. In fact, it was getting later and later and yet I wasn’t get any closer to the place I really needed to be than I had been ½ hour before. That was because I was in a proper traffic jam - the kind with police cars instead of unexplained delays. There were, in fact, a lot of police cars on the bridge into town – over 12 of them. I needed to count them because they were my excuse.

It took me about 2 hours to get into town. I don’t live 2 hours out of town. I parked my car and went about my business – late but making up for it with the overachievement necessary to erase one’s lateness.

Later in the day when I went to get my car out of the garage I was startled by a terrible sight and that sight was blocking the access to the building in which the parking lot housing my car was located. Tons of giggly school kids were standing in a huge line – there must have been at least 200 of them. They were all in line to get into the building where my car was nestled in its $17 dollars a day parking space. The guard didn’t like it when I asked if I could pass through to get to the parking lot. He thought it would be better if I stood in the back of the line. I looked down the row. Each one of these kids was going to have to go through the building security before passing on. I imagined the long wait time – minus any giggly friends of my own. In the end I decided to walk around the block to go in through a side entrance with a much shorter line. Walking does a girl good. Short lines are a thing of beauty.

Now however there was the labyrinth parking garage to traverse to find my car and since I came in a different entrance I no longer had my bearings. We all need a good tramp in the cement woods – gas and exhaust fumes, dirty grey walls, and cars whizzing round sudden curves is quite entertaining and good exercise too. Finally, off in the dim distance, I saw my car. Hello little car – my heart cried out. How I missed you. Take me home. I have an iced tea and I will not spill it on your upholstery. We can listen to my new Las Vegas Baby CD. It’ll be fun.I had hardly gotten the thoughts telegraphed to my trusty wheels than I made a terrible discovery. My keys were dangling in the car ignition and the car was locked.

You can imagine how thrilled my husband when I gave him a call and told him he would have to drive back downtown (where he had just come from) to bring me another key. I only heard a few really bad words before he hung up the phone to head back my way. That’s a good fellow. Some days it’s hard to be a husband.

My day was getting longer by the minute. Much longer. I hung out by the buses that had ferried the kids into town and waiting for the elusive and much desired key. Eventually the husband and the key did arrive. It was a pretty exciting moment. Freedom was almost within my grasp.

Now to actually get the car out of the garage. Back through security I went. Back down the elevator. Back through the labyrinth underground structure that held my car in its clutches. I found my car, put the key in the lock, and followed the exit signs – kind of. I accidentally pulled into the monthly only lane. Uh oh. I’m surprised I didn’t cause a riot. As I paid my 17 bucks, the nice lady in the cashier booth said – have a nice day, honey.

It really appreciated the wish. Hearing those few words was one of the nicest things that had happened to me all day and underlined for me the power of the casual interchange in the hearts and souls of men, women, and children.

I pulled out of the garage, the traffic enfolded me. I headed for home. Somehow, strangely, satisfied. Somehow, strangely, late again.

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