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How to be late

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It was yet another one of my full days in London.

It didn’t help that the night before was a late one. It included dinner with friends and a night out salsa dancing, to test out the new skills I have been slowly acquiring over the past month. It was my idea. And I learned quickly I’m not as good as I thought, yet.

That morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm, a rare occurrence given I stopped using an alarm to wake up nearly ten years ago. A sign of age, maturity or perhaps both, my body now consistently wakes up between six and seven each morning, and my schedule has enough flexibility in the early morning that I don’t need to worry about being late.

That morning was different though. I was hosting a breakfast roundtable event for investors in the AI industry, and knew I couldn’t be late.

Yet I was still late.

Living in Portugal for two years now, I didn’t realize how accustomed I’ve gotten to Portuguese time. I am always been late. To everything. Late is a relative concept though. Living in Portugal, where everyone else is also late in absolute terms, no one is late in relative terms. If I am ten minutes late to something, it is considered early as others will be later than me.

That morning I showed up to the event venue to be greeted by a sunset of the guests I was hosting. I failed to remember that in London, to be on time usually meant being early. Even though I was early, I was late.

The roundtable was fantastic and we finished on time. I didn’t want to start a domino of lateness for others that is all too familiar to me. But I inadvertently started the domino for myself.

I began chatting with a close friend who attended, and lost track of time. Quickly, I called a taxi to my next appointment and messaged them on the way to say I’d be ten minutes late. It was a lie, I knew I’d be at least twenty minutes late.

My next appointment was a visit to one of London’s first longevity clinics. A new experience and recent interest for me, I had vitamins and supplements injected into my veins via an ivy drip, sat in a hyperbolic oxygen chamber for an hour, among other treatments.

As I sat there quietly with vitamins being pumped into me slowly, the founder of the clinic came by for a quick hello, which turned into an hour long interview where he patiently entertained my questions about the business, science, education and regulation of longevity. I could see his staff nudge him every ten minutes or so about the meetings that I was making him late for. Clearly, I’m generous with my skill of being late and like to share it with others who come into my presence.

A friend who I have been excited to catch-up with was due to come see me there for lunch. As I went from treatment to treatment, my text stream with him grew increasingly annoying I suspect for him. It started with a “meet me at 2pm”, followed by a “hmm, better to plan for 230pm”, then “I think by 245pm I’ll be done”, to “see you soon, on my way”, sent of course after 245pm.

We enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean inspired meal, and even more stimulating conversation. Having recently been injected with a heavy dose of supplements and oxygen, the ideas were flowing quickly. We were talking at 1.5x speed.

At one point, I looked at my phone to check the time, and realized my flight was due to leave from Heathrow airport in exactly 2 hours. This was going to be close.

Pre-pandemic, I used to fly a lot and when people would ask me what type of traveler I was, my response was one word. “JIT”. I’d get a strange stare. “Just in time”. I like to show up just in time, not a minute sooner. And to this day, of the maybe one thousand plus flights I’ve taken (hence why I need to invest in longevity treatments to counter the effects on my body of so much flying around), I have only ever missed two flights, both quite early into my career as a professional JIT.

This time was going to be close though. As I hugged my friend goodbye and left the half eaten hummus, halloumi and pita behind for him to finish, I thought to myself: maybe I should invest in getting a watch. Maybe.

I stepped into the cab, said to the driver, “I’ll pay for your speeding tickets, go!”, and pulled out my phone. I was late for two calls I had scheduled for the same time. I messaged one of them to say “I’m on a call, will call you soon”, and called the other person.

Once the calls were done, seeing the traffic and wondering if I was going to make my flight, which was an 8 hour flight to Toronto, the last one of the day, I thought: ‘This would be a very good time for my flight to be delayed’.

Then I quietly remarked to myself how rare it must be for anyone to desperately hope for a delayed flight. I wonder how many times in the modern history of flight a passenger has wished for a delayed flight. Probably not very many.

After the hour long cab to Heathrow, I rushed inside the terminal and when trying to go through security, my boarding pass wouldn’t scan. I assumed it was an issue with my phone, and swiftly went to the airline desk.

The person at the counter was coy and acting out of character.

She said to me quietly, “the flight isn’t going”.

“What do you mean? Is it delayed”.

“It’s a Technical”.

After she realized that I needed more than three or four word answers, she explained that a Technical was airline language for there being a technical issue with the plane and it not being able to take off.

At this point, the plane was already boarding. She told me to wait at the counter.

I pulled out my phone and began looking for alternate flights. Nothing. So I did the next best thing and began answering the many emails and text and voice messages that had been pilling up.

About thirty minutes later, she approached me to share the flight has been cancelled and that I’d be rebooked the next day.

I said “okay, thank you for letting me know”. And went back into my phone, as I was focused on clearing my inbox and list of messages.

Then I looked up as I realized that I had no reaction to this otherwise unexpected development. I did not feel an ounce of frustration, disappointment, anger or concern.

My mind shifted towards the 200 other passengers, and realizing they are probably not going to be very happy. And within seconds, I saw the stream of angry people walk my way towards the counter. I thought, ‘oh boy, here we go…

The complaints started to roll in. The frustrations increasing. It felt people needed to vent and express themselves and chose to do it in unpleasant ways.

At one point, I stepped into a mob of sorts that was forming and interrupted the rising anger and said “hey guys, it’s a Technical, which means something is wrong with the plane. That means it is better that we are not on that plane in the air, and instead are here on the ground. Trust me, this is way better for all of us and your loved ones”.

The mob went quiet. People began to nod their head in quiet embarrassment. And slowly disperse.

Someone put their hand on my shoulder as he walked by, a gentle way of saying thank you. Another woman came up to me and said “you’re right, thank you for the perspective”.

Like time, how one feels is also relative. When I am anchored on my expectations, I will often feel dissapointment. When I am anchored on my reality, I will often feel grateful.

Back into my phone, I answered all my emails, texts and voice messages for the first time in weeks. The dopamine was running high.

Then I had the spontaneous thought to see if a woman I recently was setup with was available to have dinner with me. Our first date was literally the day before, it was a lunch which I was of course late for. Over lunch, I had asked her if she liked to plan or flow, she said while she plans her work life, she likes to go with the flow in her personal life. I thought this might be a good test to see how go with the flow she actually is.

The adrenaline was pumping now, as were the vitamins and supplements, as I wondered what her response might be.

In the meantime, I made my way to the airport hotel at Heathrow, and called a close friend in Mexico City who I had been meaning to connect with for literally months. Every few weeks after reading one of my weekly blog reflections, he texts me and I tell him I’ll call him soon. And then struggle to make time to do so.

After the call, I was pleasantly surprised to see a response from the woman I had messaged and she said yes to seeing me again. She gave me a location and I got into what would be a long taxi ride back into the city.

On the taxi, I called another close friend living in Denver, who I’ve been trading voice messages with for months and he was pleasantly surprised to hear my voice live. A rare occurrence he remarked, which I acknowledged.

Once I got to the location, she called me asking me where I was. After an entertaining exchange, I realized I was in the wrong place. Yet again, I was late.

Upon seeing her, I decided to own my lateness in life and attempt to explain to her why. She was entertained and happily watched me struggle.

Among many theories that I shared with her, the one I was the most hopeful of was inspired by a BBC documentary I once saw that introduced the idea of time keepers and time benders. Time keepers, the vast majority of the population, like to keep time. Time benders, the rest of us, are continuously and unconsciously trying to shape time. And in my case, continuously fail at shaping it.

The food was delicious, far better than airplane food, and again, I noticed how feelings of gratitude surfaced inside for me as I anchored against reality.

The date was lovely as well and I’m sure we’ll see each other again. She seems open to tolerate my lateness.

As I rode in the taxi back to the hotel at Heathrow that night, I reflected on what a beautiful and adventurous day I had. The flight cancellation alone created the space for me to clear my phone, connect with longtime friends, enjoy delicious food and have a spontaneous date.

My entire day was full of interesting people, food, vitamins and long taxi rides, however more relevant, it was also full of feelings of gratitude, excitement and curiosity.

I noticed how being late has made life more interesting for me, as each time feels like a mini-experiment. I have no idea what it is going to bring me. There is a gift in my lateness.

I no longer mind being late everywhere I go. I may have finally accepted it, and that others around me may not. It’s part of my package. It’s part of my reality. And now with this reflection, part of my brand.

Life is not about trying to be right. It is about learning to live in harmony with my reality. To know it, accept it and thrive in it.

I hope for more days like the one I had in London this week, where I can comfortably be late and completely own it.

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