There are two kinds of people in the world, and I am one of them.
I'm the kind of person who likes to be on time for things. In fact, I like to be early. Let's say I need to catch a flight that's leaving at 4 p.m. In planning my drive to the airport, I'll factor in a "cushion" to allow for the unexpected, such as heavy traffic, or a flat tire, or being kidnapped. Usually I'm at the gate, ticket out, ready to go, no later than 7:14 a.m.
My wife is the other kind of person. For her, the ideal way to catch a plane would be to arrive at the airport as the plane was taking off. She'd stand at the end of the runway, and as the plane flew over her, it would snatch her up with a big hook. Even then, she'd wait until the last second.
"What's the hurry?" she'd say. "The plane isn't even halfway down the runway yet!"
Part of this is a cultural difference. I grew up in a WASP household, and my wife grew up in a Cuban household. WASPs tend to follow schedules strictly; Cubans tend to be more relaxed. If a WASP wedding is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday, the wedding march will start at 2 p.m. sharp, and the bride will come down the aisle at 2:03 p.m., no matter what, even if the originally scheduled groom has bailed out and the bride has to use an emergency backup groom taken right off the street.
Whereas in a typical Cuban wedding, the phrase "2 p.m." is translated as "possibly this weekend." (True fact: I once went to a wedding at a Cuban home; I arrived 20 minutes before the scheduled start, and was greeted at the door by the bride, who was still in curlers.) I believe that the Cuban community will not be affected by the Millennium Bug until the year 2004 at the earliest.
But the difference between my wife and me is not totally cultural; I think it's also gender-related. I believe that men and women do not view time the same way: I think that, in general, women think there is WAY more time in the universe than men do. This is not just some half-baked notion of mine: This is a scientific, statistically valid conclusion that I reached by talking to some guys about their wives. In every case, the guys had experienced friction with their wives over the issue of time.
The way this typically works is, a couple will be going to a party, and they'll agree they're going to leave the house at 7:30 p.m. The wife, believing that the universe has plenty of time left, interprets 7:30 to mean "around 8," or, more specifically, "9." Whereas the husband, acutely sensitive to the dwindling supply of time, interprets 7:30 to mean "around 7," which, after he allows for an emergency cushion, translates to 6:45. The husband likes to allow a cushion on top of the cushion, in case there's a tornado or nuclear war, so he's dressed and ready to leave at 5:30, at which time the wife is figuring that she still has more than three hours -- or, rounding it off, four hours.
By 7:25, the husband is a nervous wreck. By his figuring, they are now almost two hours late for the party (the husband never wanted to go to the party in the first place, but that is no longer relevant). The husband doesn't dare say anything directly to his wife, however, because this has resulted in friction on several prior occasions (2,381 prior occasions, to be exact). So he tries to alert her of the urgency of the situation via the Universal Husband Signaling Method, which is jingling his keys. This makes his wife crazy. She's thinking, "Why is he JINGLING already? We have TONS of time!" So, in a mistaken effort to calm him down, she calls out the words that cause despair in the hearts of men:
"I'm almost ready! I'm just putting on my makeup!"
To the husband, these two statements contradict each other. It's like saying: "I'm very short! I'm 38 feet tall!" Or: "You can believe me! I'm Bill Clinton!" Because to the husband, "I'm just putting on my makeup" means "I'm painstakingly applying 450 coats of beauty products to my face using an applicator the width of a human hair." Granted, the wife can do this in seven minutes, but it seems way longer to the husband because of Albert Einstein's Theory of Cosmetic Relativity, which states that "every minute that a wife spends putting on makeup is experienced as 45 minutes by a husband who has reached the key-jingling stage." By the time they actually leave the house (at 7:40) there is so much friction that the car may burst into flames. If they make it to the party, the husband, trying to keep on schedule, will immediately want to leave.
I realize that I've made some sweeping generalizations in this column, and you may disagree with me. If so, and you'd like to "drop me a line" so I can see your side of the story, you can forget about it, because I'm running late as it is.