I sat in an extremely noisy restaurant with three of my friends waiting for one more to arrive. I love the latecomer dearly, but after being friends for over 25 years, I know the only way to get her somewhere on time is to lie to her about the meeting time. I accept her flaw because other than her dysfunctional internal time clock, she’s a terrific person. When we formed this Mah Jongg group years ago, we should have told her we would meet at 11:30 for lunch before heading to one of our homes to play Mah Jongg. If we fibbed, maybe—just maybe—she would arrive at the real time, 11:45 most of the time. As soon as one of the gals told Ms. Perpetually Late the real gathering time, I knew she’d rarely, if ever, show before noon.
After several years of playing with her, we’re used to her tardiness and listening to all the upheavals that justifiably delay her—excuses that make us forget she is late. She, in turn, has learned if she’s late and wants to eat, she has two choices. If she’ll only be around 15-minutes late, she can call one of us on our cell and tell us what to order for her. More than that, she needs to order take-out and eat on the run. None of the players in our game wants to spend a half-hour waiting for her to order and finish eating if we’re about to pay the check when she arrives.
She’s far from the only person who is always late. My manicurist tells a story about a client of hers who was always a half hour late, and like my friend, always rushes in with legitimate excuses. She said the client thinks she has a 2 o’clock appointment, but it’s really 2:30. She told me that the one time the client was “on time,” she was livid she had to wait!
Back to my story—this week, by the time the waiter came to take the order, my friend still hadn’t called, which I must admit is unusual for her. Our meals were being served when she rushed through the front door laden down by her up-to-date, over-sized, and over-stuffed bag.
“None of your phones are answering,” she exclaimed. “I’ve be calling all of you for an hour.”
One by one, we reached into our bags. One phone said no service, the others said “Missed Call, listen to the message.”
“See,” she said. “I did try to call.”
Since it was obvious the noise in the restaurant muffled our phones, I placed my phone in my pocket so I could hear it. I didn’t bother to dial my voice mail. Instead, I listened to a first hand account of all the calamities that occurred that morning causing my friend to be 45-minutes late.
When the afternoon was over, I called my husband to tell him I was on the way home.
“It’s about time you returned my call,” he almost growled.
Whoops. I guessed I had more than one message in my voice mail.
Now what creative excuse could I come up with for not checking my voice mail? I couldn’t. Instead, I told him if it was that important, he should have called back. Nothing works better, than turning the tables if you can’t come up with a valid excuse.