It’s 7:03 p.m. and people are milling around with no particular sense of urgency. I observe them and scribble something in my notebook. It looks like I’m taking notes, but I’m not. I’ve just sketched a puffin smoking a cigarette. Pretty cool, huh?

It’s 7:06 p.m. and they’re still milling about, having private conversations and quiet laughs. I make a notation in my notebook. This one is supposed to be an elephant, but I’ve never been any good at drawing elephants. It looks like an industrial vacuum cleaner.

7:09 p.m. Still milling, still joking, still no sense of order. Agitated, I give up my pencil and dig the story assignment out of my back pocket. It’s right there in black and white. Meeting begins at 7 p.m. There’s no mention of 15 minutes of idle milling.

I draw another puffin, only this one is scowling and holding a chain saw. He’s not afraid to use it, either. Let’s get this show on the road, people. Don’t make me unleash the puffin.

I’m a guy who craves punctuality. So sue me. It seems to be a lost virtue these days as scheduled meetings — even the really dull government business kind — are begun, not when the clock strikes the hour, but whenever it feels right. Whenever those in attendance have finished playing with their phones and when last night’s episode of “America’s Got Talent” has been adequately summarized.

I was sent to cover a meeting last week that addressed an issue of significance for the community. It was set to start at 6 p.m. but when 6 p.m. rolled around, not a single person was seated. The dude in charge of the meeting was off in a hallway somewhere yucking it up with a bespectacled young lady who giggled at his every joke.

I dug the assignment sheet out of my back pocket. Perhaps I had read it wrong the first time and I was actually here to cover a keg party. I’d be down with that. Two bucks a head? Dude, whose got the cups?

But no. This wasn’t a kegger, it was a regular old meeting and here it was, 6:12 p.m. and not a single throat had been cleared, nor light switched on and off to get things started.

I silently fumed, and as I fumed, it occurred to me what a fastidious thing it is to demand that things start on time. Had I somehow become a rigid, uptight curmudgeon, and if so, should I start wearing spectacles on the end of my nose and shouting at kids to get off my lawn?

I don’t even HAVE a lawn.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve always been punctually minded or if the news business made me this way. After all, if you’re a reporter who shows up late for an assignment, you might miss the best stuff, and then you have to spend the rest of your night begging people to recreate the action that occurred in the early minutes.

“Please, Missus Councilor person. Can you hurl a shoe and shriek profanities at the person in the front row like you did at 6 p.m. on the dot? I’d really like to lead my story with this.”

Show up late for a criminal trial and every face in the courtroom — including that of the accused — will turn and stare upon you with scorn. Show up late for a police news conference and you’ll miss the part where the chief names the killer and then none of the other reporters will share their notes with you.

Show up late for a city council meeting and you’ll miss the part where the enraged councilor lady hurls her shoe.

I imagine there are people who showed up late to the Ali-Liston fight — probably because they took too much time summarizing last night’s episode of “Project Runway” in the parking lot — and their friends are still laughing at them.

Not me, bruh. I show up on time and I resent being forced to wait while stragglers roll in whenever they damn well please. A city meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. that doesn’t actually start until 7:16? I just drew another puffin and you can plainly see what he’s doing with his finger. That’s how angry I am.

Puffins don’t even HAVE fingers.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Email him at [email protected] NOW to avoid a snarling emoticon.


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