confessions of a serially late attendee

by philbern

I’m no catholic, but I’ve got a confession I need off my chest. I don’t think I’ve been to my first class of the day on time once this semester. I show up between 30 seconds and 10 minutes late and walk right in front of everyone to the one open seat in the front row. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. And I don’t want to miss much of the class- I’m paying a lot for it, after all. It’s just not an option for me to be able to show up before the given time. I’ve been working on it, but something deep down inside of me refuses to let me arrive on time for anything, much less my classes. My earliest one is at noon. I have literally all the time in the world to do whatever I need to and still get out the door early, but it never feels worth it to leave at the moment. The timetables are always off. Even if I plan on leaving early, something will grab my attention and hold it till it’s too late. Estimated walking time isn’t a useful metric either. Depending on the urgency of the day, speeds vary. Only one constant: late.

emma burns

Sigmund Freud and psychoanalytic thought propose that human beings are driven not only by our conscious intentions but by our unconscious drives and desires. My psyche must have a deeply ingrained imperative to stop me from getting to class on time; an unconscious lateness drive that manifests itself by turning deadlines and start times into suggestions. Sorry to the early risers. I guess you’ve got it lucky.

If only my professors would react more negatively and be less understanding, perhaps then I’d have a reason to change. I bet that if I got yelled at in front of a class, even once, I would never show up late again. Instead I get a little look, a smile, or more often than not they just ignore the swinging of the door, the clattering of my backpack hitting the ground, and the resonating plop of my ass on the chair. It doesn’t warrant the attention. Students ignore it too, unless we’re friends. In that case, they say something funny and then I say something funny and then we both try and pay attention.

Yes, I may be an absolute villain. Besides the fact that it’s obviously fashionable, being chronically late does indeed have redeeming potential. Yes, it may get to the point where it becomes a genuine inconvenience for those around you and those whom you care about. Look at it through a socio-political lense, and being late becomes a personal assertion of individual autonomy against the sterile and dehumanizing demands of a technological society of control. Modern timekeeping is a history of domination. The structure of our day was adopted by diplomats at the 1884 Prime Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of international trade and to simplify railway timetables. Time management and scheduling in their current incarnations are a byproduct of industrial capitalism and its relentless drive to use logic and measurement to streamline production and trade for maximum profit. This system of time had to be imposed on colonized peoples by force as just one of many tools of domination. So, it’s time to do your part to resist.

Being late isn’t an individual moral failing, it’s a protest against the colonization of our temporal sphere by the artificial demands of capitalist logic. Next time you’re late for something important, especially your classes, you should be proud of yourself. Don’t beat yourself of You’ve committed a revolutionary act against a totalitarian society. Your professors will understand.

Categories: April 12, around town, emma burns, phil bern

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