I am never late.  I mean it.  I am never late.

I actually have contingency plans in effect for the times that my inability to be tardy translates into the fact that I arrive somewhere incredibly early.  I can get coffee as I wait, and the ubiquity of Starbucks as a franchise has made that possibility an almost certainty.  I can read a book on my phone using my Kindle app.  I can duck into some place that has a mirror and make sure that the mascara on my lower lashes hasn’t disappeared completely.  And if it has and I happen to be anywhere near a Sephora or a place that has a MAC counter, I can fully reapply.

But this last Friday night I was late.  I was forty minutes late, which turned out to be both unprecedented and fully unavoidable, and the whole thing threw me.

I had plans to meet someone in the city at seven, so I got home from work at three – have to love a teacher’s hours sometimes, regardless of the hideous fact that I get to work before the sun commodores the sky every morning – and I hopped in the shower and did that routine where I shampoo and condition and exfoliate and shave until I’m as hairless as possible.  Then I straightened my hair and applied the smooth Philosophy lotion that I love and I spritzed on some Tom Ford Black Velvet perfume, which I am back to wearing during these frigid days of winter because it has a wintery sexy scent to it, and I put on some makeup and then it was time to get dressed.

Can I talk to you about outfits? I’d asked my friend Michael earlier that day.  It was between periods and we were out in the hallway together.

No, he’d responded, just as I figured he would. 

You have to listen to me, I’d pleaded.  You are male and you are heterosexual and that means that you have the pleasure – nay, the responsibility – to tell me which outfit sounds hotter, do you hear me?

And he reluctantly nodded and then patiently listened as I explained two very different outfits in extreme detail and included the color of the bra I would wear under the gauzy off-white top (black lace) and as I described this new necklace I’d just bought from Saks that I would wear with the dressier outfit and he looked glazed and dazed by the time I told him which shoes I’d been considering.

Wear the first one, he told me, and while I actually liked the other outfit better, I knew I’d be more comfortable in the one he had chosen.

Thank you!  I exclaimed to him and then went into my classroom to give my kids a test on how to budget a film and how to figure out which demographic would be your audience so the studio could advertise appropriately.

I shimmied into the selected outfit and exchanged texts with the guy I was meeting up with and threw my wallet and my lip-gloss and my gloves into my purse and took a last glance at myself in the mirror and I pulled on this new coat I’d recently purchased and I gave my dog a goodbye biscuit and I headed out the door.  I was giving myself two full hours to get to where I needed to be, and I knew that I’d probably arrive early, but that would just give me ample time to relax with a latte and Amy Poehler’s book that was on my phone because technology is a wonderful thing.

It took three hours to get into the city on Friday.  Three.  Full.  Hours.  I kept waiting to pass the eighteen-car pileup that must have been the cause for such extreme delays.  I actually sent good wishes to those who had been hurt in the incident, but my good wishes were for naught; there was no eighteen-car pileup.  There was just insane gridlock for no apparent reason besides the fact that maybe it was Fashion Week.

Around six – while I still sat in Suffolk County – I sent him a text that I might be running late.  Sending a text with that message was so unlike me and I could feel myself almost starting to sweat in the February air and I turned the heat off in my car for a little while and waited until I began to shiver and until my nipples got hard enough from the cold that they entered Nassau County before the rest of me did and only then did I turn the heat back on and begin to feel grateful that I was finally moving at thirty miles per hour on the Expressway.

I had the radio on and I listened to people call in to request a Springsteen song that was either about love or not, which made me in my frustrated state think, so, really any song is applicable here, right?  And when one can choose any Bruce song on the planet and the person asks to hear Glory Days, that’s when I contemplate humanity in general and flip to Hair Nation so that hopefully I can hear some early Guns n Roses before I turn East Street Radio back on and maybe someone with some taste will request something fantastic.

On a normal day and during a drive where I got to actually accelerate, Glory Days would not have bothered me at all.  But in my situation, I was starting to get testy.

After I sat in stand-still traffic in Queens, things finally began to open up and I got to the tunnel fairly quickly and maneuvered my way towards an E-Z Pass lane and looked at the throngs of cars waiting in the cash line to the right – it was a devastating sea of red brake lights – and I went through the toll and lost my reception just as Trapped came on and I was sad for a moment but I heard the end of it as I headed out of the tunnel and began to drive as though I was on an unstoppable mission when I turned right onto 2nd Avenue.

I had to head all the way down to Tribeca, but I knew that it should only take twenty minutes or so.

I’m about twenty minutes away, I texted him as I sat at a red light.  And I need a drink the size of my head.

Whatever, he wrote back, I think you are retarded, and I laughed loudly for a good minute that he remembered the story I had told him once about the guy I’d had one date with and when he called to reschedule another one, I’d gently told him that I wished him well but I didn’t think we were right for one another, and his response had been to tell me that I was retarded.

There are some things that happen in life, I’ve come to realize, that take place simply so that they can become a story that makes you laugh in retrospect while you are stuck in traffic – and I think that I am more than okay with that.

It took a good five minutes to inch down 2nd Avenue and, when I realized that I was only at 23rd Street, I decided that I had kind of had it at that point.  So I turned down 22nd and slammed to a stop in front of a garage that is across the street from where some of my friends lived for years and I flung the keys at the attendant and grabbed the ticket from him and walked up to 2nd as quickly as possible when you are in five-inch heels and you are heading straight into the force of a ferocious wind.  On the corner, I hailed a cab in only seconds and I sat back and allowed the driver to weave his way through the throngs of vehicles to get me downtown more quickly than I could do myself.

It still took another twenty minutes to get down Broadway and I finally arrived at my destination and gave the driver a very nice tip because he had almost mowed down a few people in his effort to get me to where I needed to be.  And I threw open the door of the car and rushed into the place on the corner and had a moment where I thought about how I was really pleased with how I could maneuver while basically wearing stilts on my feet and I remembered that I had forgotten to reapply my lip-gloss just as I found myself on a date where I showed up forty minutes late.

When I finally drove home, the entire trip took one hour.  I literally left the city and was home in sixty minutes and was calmly washing my face with my Clarisonic just seconds later. I marveled at how it didn’t look like there was that much makeup that I put on earlier, but – holy shit – there must have been because those brushes and those bristles turned a sun-kissed shade that my skin has not had since August.

I miss August.

I went upstairs then and I stripped the carefully chosen clothing from my body and tossed it all over my chaise longue chair, knowing I’d clean everything up during daylight hours.  And then I came back downstairs and made myself a cup of Sleepytime tea and I thought about the night and about the drive and about the guy and about the selection of outfits and about the fact that my life would be easier if I just wore flats and I could feel my eyes begin to get heavy and I could feel a pulsing in the back of my head and I drank a little bit more tea and then carried my dog upstairs with me.

It was very late by then and Wookie looked almost weary with exhaustion, so much so that I wondered what it was that she had done while I had been gone during all of those hours.  And just as I was deciding between whether or not she had thrown a strip poker game or a Valentine’s Day dance for the canines in the area that she probably just pretends to ignore so that I’ll never catch on to her rebellious behavior, I felt a darkness settle into my mind and sleep began to take hold of me and I could still smell the faint hints of Velvet Orchid in my hair.