Thinking of You Ain’t Easy

The first guest to my daughter’s party arrived twenty-five minutes early.

Seriously, Darlene?

Nobody who’s ever hosted a party would do that to someone.  My wife was just hopping out of the shower and I was sweeping up the kitchen when Darlene showed up with her kids.

“I like to be early,” she tells us unapologetically.  “My daddy says you can never be too early.”

Um, yes, you can, daddy.

According to The Bagg Group, a staffing and resources firm, arriving way ahead of time…can work against you. It’s not a show of enthusiasm, it’s a show of inconsideration.   Here’s why. In agreeing to a time, you make a deal. If you show up at a much different time, you’re essentially changing the deal, without notice.  (Link to Article)

Our deal with Darlene and the other party guests was for one o’clock.

By showing up almost a half-hour early, she broke that deal without a heads up.  Maybe to some that’s not rude, but it’s definitely inconvenient.  Now we have to start hosting while we’re organizing the last minute party details.  The awkwardness that accompanies this doesn’t seem to bother Darlene at all.  In fact, she chats away at my wife who’s now putting on clothes and makeup.

Social timing is tricky.

If Darlene had shown up twenty-five minutes after one o’clock, it might have felt just as rude or awkward to us.  That’s how I rolled in my twenties – I’d arrive a half-hour late and ignore anyone who complained.  My attitude was like Snoop Dogg’s when an interviewer busted his chops for being five hours late.

“I’m here, [n-word], be happy I’m here and axe some real questions.”  (Link to Video)

Now I know better.

My selfish instincts worked well as a standup comic – I was the only one on stage and it was up to me to get the laughs.  That requires a tremendous ego.  You’ve got to think pretty highly of yourself to convince a roomful a strangers that you’re $25 worth of funny.

Performing improv with a group changed everything.

On the Second City and I/O stages, at least five other actors were counting on me to see a bigger picture.  We were all depending on each other to look past ourselves.  Social timing involves doing the same thing – considering more than just your own point of view.

That’s what Darlene’s missing.

It’s the instinct conscientious people develop that triggers a red flag whenever something they’ve done affects others in a negative way.   It’s the ‘my bad’ impulse that keeps decent people in social check.  It causes them to utter such sentences as:

“Whoops, I parked my car in two spots – better adjust it to make room for others.”

“Ten items or less?  Guess I’ll have to go to a different line.”

“Taking off my shoes and socks on this airplane would be nice, but I won’t because it’s not pleasant for others.”

“Perhaps if I use a turn signal, the guy behind me won’t be shocked when I veer in front of him.”

Granted, it takes effort to go from thinking of just yourself to considering others.  There are still plenty of moments when I struggle with it, like when I want to crank my radio or take my shirt off in public.  Thankfully, in these moments, my old improv instincts kick in and I ask myself, “How does this particular choice affect the entire scene?”

In a great America, every Darlene would start asking that same question.

How do my choices affect the world?  How does my littering, bullying, public cursing, cutting in line, or gossiping affect my neighbors?   How does it make my hosts feel when I show up way too early or late?

Of course, it could just be that Darlene doesn’t know how to be on time.

The suggestion The Muse, a career advice site gives for being pleasantly punctual:

Plan to get to the…location (or near it) 20-30 minutes early, so you’ll still have a buffer of time in case anything happens…But don’t go inside…Instead, sit in your car or in a Starbucks across the street until 5-10 minutes before game time, when you can walk [in] calmly and collectedly. (Link to Article)

Sure, social timing is tricky, and so is considering others, but with a little effort, they’re both totally doable and make living in a group much more tolerable.

Come on, Darlenes, let’s give it a try.

  • Mike Lukas


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