Monday, February 22, 2010

The Etiquette of Arrival

When it comes to arriving at places, I have a split personality. I love to get to the airport early, with plenty of time to go through security and relax at the gate. For business or doctors appointments, I feel it's important to be on time, if not slightly early. But when it comes to social occasions, I'm all for arriving fashionably late, or at the very least not early. There can be no greater social faux pas than arriving early for a party.

I could never convince my father of this, however. He liked to arrive early, even for social occasions, much to the chagrin of my mother, who preferred to make a later entrance. It was difficult to thwart my father's desire to get going. He would stand by the door with his coat on, impatiently calling for us to hurry up. When we arrived at our destination before the appointed time, which often happened, he seemed oblivious to our mortification. He liked the comfort of knowing we had made it there safe and sound.

By the time I was a teenager, my mother and I and my two younger sisters had worked out a tacit plan to prevent early arrival. While my father stood by the front door, one or another of us would call to him from the upstairs bedrooms where we were dressing. "I'm almost ready," we might say, soothingly, or "I'll be down in a sec." Finally, in an attempt to show he was serious about leaving, my father would go out to the driveway and start the car, where he'd sit, engine running, until we finally emerged. Usually, we had stalled long enough to avoid arriving before the appointed time.

I still go to great lengths to avoid arriving early at social gatherings. Recently, I prevailed on E. to sit in the car for fifteen minutes, so we wouldn't ring the bell early for a dinner party. And I've been known to circle the block or even take a scenic detour in order to avoid showing up before my host expects me. In all other matters of arrival, though, I've inherited my father's anxious nature and find it comforting to arrive early. This even extends to some social situations—I don't like to be late for restaurant reservations and when a friend is driving me to the movies or the theater, I try to be ready for pickup early.

So, rest assured, I won't keep you waiting if we're going to the movies together. But, if you ever invite me to dinner, don't worry—I won't show up while you're still in the shower.


  1. Before I was married I was late to a couple of weddings. I don't think it was good because I was the photographer.

    I love the way you are aware of how you act and what you feel. You write about stuff that I don't even think about.

  2. I thought I was the only one who arrived early to the destination, then waited until others arrived before going in.

    I am very anal about arriving on time for reservations. We have one photo from Hawaii, where my daughter catches me mid-step, staring at my watch, with one hand resting on the door knob, my long skirt whirling out behind me. She laughed when she first saw the photo. "This is the story of our trip," she said. Bonnie