Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On being seven minutes late for work

I am more or less always seven minutes late for work. It’s quite uncanny. The strange thing is that it doesn’t much matter what time I leave the house, get out of bed or how I vary my morning routine; I will always be seven minutes late for work.

In term-time I try to leave in plenty of time because there are two schools obstacling my commute. If I leave early enough to avoid the Mum’s Rush at the first school, I hit the worst of the traffic at the second. This makes me seven minutes late for work. On the other hand, if I’m late enough to get caught by the first school, I make up time because the rush at the second has died down – allowing me to be only seven minutes late for work.

Sometimes, if I feel I really ought not to be seven minutes late for work, I attempt to trim some seconds off my morning preparations by shaving the night before (not recommended: nightshaving is a terrible habit and against nature). Or I might get my gym kit ready in the evening or some such. But when I do this I find myself slowed down in other ways – I take an extra snooze (the standard is three), dither over what to have for breakfast, or get bogged down in what the daft journalist is saying about Wayne Rooney on Sky Sports News. It’s as if my subconscious is aware of the extra time I’ve allowed, is having none of it and is adamant that I be exactly seven minutes late for work.

The worst one is a paralysis over what CD to play in the car – similar to Great Wakering but even more mood-dependant. (There’s always a default selection of CDs shoved into the doors and glove compartment – Blood on the Tracks, In Rainbows and Darkness on the Edge of Town are ever-presents, Kings of Leon are current favourites – but now and again I get an urge to listen to something I’ve neglected for a while. Last week it was Bowie’s Low and Weller’s Wildwood. The former is a curiously frustrating album, it seems to me now – the vocal songs on the A-side are too short and the electronic instrumentals on the B-side are too long. Sound & Vision is genius – you want it to go on for an hour but it’s cut off before its prime. Wildwood amazed me this time around – such a strong, confident record, perhaps Weller’s best sustained work in any of his incarnations. But I digress.) This CD dithering alone can consume my seven minutes.

I have three theories about the seven minute rule. One is based on Einstein’s insight that space and time are not separate things but are in fact a single entity, spacetime. This means that whenever I try to go quicker in order to save time, my speedy motion through space actually uses up my allotted time allowance, and given the Einsteinian deterministic notion that my path through spacetime (I picture a gloopy translucent tube like that thing in Donnie Darko) is already set at exactly seven minutes lateness per day, I can do nothing about it.

My second theory is based on the post-Einstein idea that the universe consists of a sort of weave made up of tiny quantum ‘grains’ of spacetime, and every day I somehow manage to fritter away seven minutes’ worth of these grains on the commute – either through the inefficiency of my car or via that hole in my jacket I’ve never got round to asking my wife to fix.

The third theory is that I’m a lazy sod who can’t get out of his nice warm bed, especially since we invested in the memory-foam mattress. In fact as the alarm went off this morning a little verse popped into my head:

You tore me rudely from my tomb
As the midwife tore me from the womb,
You gave me life, and a million cares,
But it was still and dark
and safe in there.

The libretto for the musical version of The Tragedy of Lazarus is writing itself.


Dick Madeley said...

It's the lazy sod theory for me. Actually, it's part lazy sod, part 'I hate my job', and a third part British Rail.

monix said...

I have the opposite problem. No matter how hard I try, I am always too early. It is much harder to produce an excuse for turning up too soon for a meeting or a party. Trains never run late for me, there is never a road block, I never take a wrong turning. No matter how many times I go round the block, how long I loiter in the car park or in corridors, someone always spots me and comes out to offer a weary welcome. It is the most socially embarrassing condition. However, I do my 'fashionably late' bit by staying on and being the last to leave.

Ben said...

Reminds me of Reggie Perrin who was always late for work at Sunshine Desserts.

Hey Skipper said...

I'm always early.

I'm not sure which theory explains that.