It was the last day of February and I was ten minutes early to pick up my daughter. The carpark was empty. I had nothing to read so I settled back behind the wheel and closed my eyes. I was pleased with myself for arriving early. For once my resolution is working, I thought.
In January when I thought about New Years resolutions I realised that the only ones that seem to work are the big life changing decisions, like selling your house, or killing your husband, or changing your job. The other ones, – losing weight or eating healthier food or drinking less, are important more as signals of good intent and rarely last beyond the first week. This year I put ‘being on time for things’ at the top of my list and I vowed that 2008 was the year I would beat the clock. That evening I was a half an hour late for an appointment and arrived flustered and apologetic and guilty.
Those of you who have the same struggle with disappearing time will know what I mean. It’s like someone has programmed all the clocks in the universe to lull you into a false sense of security. They tell you you have an hour to go, loads of time, and you decide to hang out the washing or make a phone call. And then while your attention is elsewhere the clocks sends signals to each other across the galaxy and you can nearly hear the sneer going around the collective intelligence.
So she thinks she’ll get the better of us, they tick tock to each other, and they go into ‘sleep mode’ for a while so that you think you have plenty of time left and you congratulate yourself for being so efficient as you clean up your emails or plan tomorrows dinner. And at the last minute they take a mighty leap forward and you get such a fright, that instead of deleting the Viagra emails you delete the ones from your current lover and the Viagra company think they are on to a good thing when they get the reply about how great last night was.
I had invited 10 people to my house for five-o clock on Christmas Eve. At about three I sat down with a coffee. The house was perfect, the food was ready. I just had to bring my daughter up town to collect something at four o clock. At four Newbridge was quiet. We collected her present with no problems and as the shopping Centre was on the way home I decided to make a brief stop to get a plant for a forgotten relative. It was 4.15 and on a whim I drove past the shopping Centre and into Tesco which was just beyond it. I had already turned into the carpark at Tesco when I realised what a bad decision that was. Cars jammed every aisle, and weary drivers blew their horns or stared sullenly ahead. I saw a man tearing the wrapping off a Christmas cake and taking wedges out of it in frustration. We looked back towards the shopping centre and it was Silent Night over there, all was calm, all was quiet. And that was when I knew that they had got me again. Those evil time genies were laughing their chimes off and doing high fives with the one who prompted me to go to Tesco.
“It’s a conspiracy,” I muttered, and my daughter looked at me sadly, as if wondering- not for the first time- could she not have done a bit better when they were doling out the mothers.
So you can see why the time thing was at the top of my list. 2008 was the year when I was finally going to do it, when time would be on its knees before me offering me more hours in the day than I could use and I would arrive serene and manicured on every occasion. I got away with it on Christmas Eve. The propensity to be late is probably embedded in the family gene pool. So at 5.30, I sighed with relief to see no strange cars in the drive and after a frantic clothes change, I opened my door serenely, and graciously accepted the apologies of the first of the latecomers.
I was laughing to myself at the memory but I noticed the clock. It was past five and the carpark was strangely empty. My phone rang.
“Where are you?”
“I’m outside,” I said, summoning my most indignant tone.
“I told you the rehearsal was in the Arts Centre today,” she said wearily.
I’d swear I could hear a faint ticktock of laughter as I reversed the car.