I was drafted three times during the Vietnam War, but never served.
It wasn’t because I was unpatriotic or anti-military or even opposed to the war, per se. It was because I was afraid of getting killed.
My high school friends, returning home from duty, scared me with tales of mayhem and the incomprehensible destruction of property and life.
I already knew something about the seemingly futile carnage from news reports and because a football buddy was killed by friendly fire after being in-country for only three days – the result of an artillery miscalculation by another 19-year-old who was too young to buy a drink back home.
My Johnny-come-demoralized-and-limping-home friends sternly advised me not to go, at any cost. I took their advice and legally avoided induction – three times.
Twenty-some years later, after the war’s memorial was built in Washington, D.C. and the movie “Platoon” had been released, Vietnam vets finally were getting the positive recognition they deserved.
Some of my old friends, with decades of pent-up anger, confronted me with, “Where were you?” It was more of an accusation than a question, and I would meekly answer, “I listened to you.”
THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE LEFT BEHIND
Life is full of ironies. Like the first time I got drafted.
I was to report to my Selective Service Center at 7 a.m. but didn’t arrive until 7:20. There were two buses in front of the building to take us to Philadelphia for physicals and swearing-in.
When I finally showed up, a sharp-looking guy with sergeant stripes on his sleeves told me to get on the second bus.
“I missed the first bus, huh?” I joked.
“That’s for Marines,” he replied.
“Marines? I thought the draft was for the Army.”
“For guys like you – scruffy stragglers – it is,” he scoffed. “The ones who were here early get to be Marines. The Marines want the best; the Army gets the rest.”
With that short but sweet elegy, my fleeting chance to be one of the few, the proud, rumbled off in front of me, carrying my peers to exotic places such as Parris Island, Huê and Hill 861.
I, on the other hand, was given a six-month deferment after failing the physical and ordered to see an Army orthopedic specialist.
‘YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN MINE’
As I boarded the bus to head home from Philly, the same sergeant who had greeted me that morning told me I was very lucky.
“The Marines wouldn’t go for that old football injury crap,” he said. “They would have passed you, boy, and you would have been mine.”
Thank heaven for my chronically-late-syndrome.
WHY BE A PRISONER OF TIME
I try to be on time. Every year when I list my goals, “make an effort to be on time” is always right near the top.
But I’m always captivated by the wise words of William Faulkner in describing a father giving his son a watch that’s a family heirloom (from “The Sound and the Fury”):
“I give you this mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto adsurdum of all human experience. … I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”
And that’s all I’m trying to do: avoid reducto adsurdum, and not be a prisoner to time.
NO LINK TO GOOD OR EVIL
Folks who delight in monitoring other people’s behavior say chronically-late-syndrome is symptomatic of laziness, shows a profound disrespect of others, is irresponsible, indicates a self-centered personality and is a bellwether for a lot of other nefarious attributes.
Yes, in the big scheme of things, being on time is desirable, but it does not necessarily make you a good person. And being late does not indicate a tendency toward an immoral and imprudent temperament.
To the contrary, businessinsider.com says, “People who always run late are more successful and creative.”
BETTER ATTITUDE, BETTER HEALTH
And it’s not our fault.
Diana DeLonzor, author of “Never Be Late Again,” writes, “Most late people have been late all their life, and they are late for every type of activity – good or bad. … Some experts subscribe to the theory that certain people are hard-wired to be late, and that part of the problem may be embedded deep in the lobes of the brain.”
Better yet, we are eternally optimistic, according to John Haltiwanger, senior politics writer at Elite Daily: “People who are continuously late are actually just more optimistic. They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time. Simply put, they’re fundamentally hopeful. Researchers have found optimism has a myriad of physical health benefits.”
Isabella Eckett, assistant editor at Talent Sales Manager, adds, “People who are late have a greater inability to feel stressed, leading to health benefits, but also think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.” All of these things lead to greater success at work, alongside a longer life.
BEING LATE WAS FATE
Just ask J.P. Morgan, the legendary financier who helped build the Industrial Revolution, about the benefits of being late.
He had a personal suite with his own private promenade deck and a bathtub equipped with a specially designed cigar holder on a luxury liner sailing from England to New York, but missed the departure because he lingered to enjoy his morning massage and sulfur bath.
Distraught, he was left standing on the dock, watching the three functional and one decorative smokestacks of the Titanic fade into the horizon.
Sales consultant and professional speaker Rich Plinke of Allentown is the author of “More Droppings from the Dragon: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Sales,” available at www.moredroppingsfromthedragon.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.