By Peter Hamilton Travis

I have a horrific secret that’s common knowledge to anyone who knows me: Getting out of the house to — anywhere — in a timely manner is something I wrassle with daily (You wrestle an opponent — you wrassle a reticulated python).

It usually starts with me straining to recall where I strategically placed my car keys the day before. I’m late. I return home. And undoubtedly ends in my thinking:

“Listen scout (normally I refer to myself in the first person as a lower ranking webelos, but the day was good) — let’s not repeat today’s fiasco. We’ll just leave the car keys right here — in the most logical place.”

It varies every day, but that day those fail safe key-fortresses happened to be:

“Next to my sunglasses?”

“Or, underneath this pile of unopened mail?”

“Better yet — in the kitchen pantry — directly behind the Bisquick®?”

Don’t ask.

And since my car was in the shop most of the summer — finding a proper car key of any sort — mine, or the rental’s — further widened my spread between triumph and crushing, sweat-through-my-shirt defeat.

Now, remember — all these circus tricks devour precious time. Time I do not factor into my master “Getting Out Alive & On Time” spreadsheet.

That confessed, I feel the familiar, fetid combination of shame and regret. So — are you all happy now? I’m miserable and you’re not. Well, hopefully.

In case you are feeling a bit down — I’ve discovered of recent a surefire way to beat those blues black and blue. Two words: Marilyn Monroe. Watching a film — there are many to choose from. My current fave happens to be the giddy grape gumdrop, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” The 1953 Howard Hawks sparkling musical comedy starring Ms. Monroe and Jane Russell has been flawlessly remastered and is available on Blu-ray. Wow.

The visual feast led me to investigate the impressive collection of Monroe’s musical recordings — which I am listening to right now. How can anyone resist her syrupy yet snappy vocal styling of the following verse from Irving Berlin’s “You’d Be Surprised,” one of four recordings Monroe did for RCA in 1953:

“At a party

Or at a ball

I’ve got to admit

He’s nothing at all

But in a Morris chair

You’d be surprised.”

So that I don’t fall prey to a crippling depression and…well, miss something deadlinesque — I must continue writing.

This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of celebrating the legal union (Thank you New York State!) of two of my dearest friends. So they had to wait a few decades — it only multiplied the joy. Making it a truly joyous event.

This was one joyous event I was laser-focused (for weeks prior) on arriving exactly on time to.

I even had the good fortune of a rehearsal (so to speak) the weekend before. At my brother’s wedding — which was to start at 3:00 PM.

We arrived to the Church precisely at 3:03 PM.

As we stealthily swept through the chapel’s rear doors and took our seats-of-shame in the last row of pews, the reality of what had transpired in the past three minutes made me ill. To my horror, the bride — my future sister-in-law — had already made the ceremonial turtle’s waft down the long isle and stood, flanked by my brother, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The priest was in deep, outward thought. The nuptials were in full swing! Really? All that in just three minutes? Seriously? I’m punished for being micro-late to my own brother’s union.

Needlessly to say, there was not going to be a micron-of-a-chance that I’d be arriving any time but on time to my dear friends’ wedding.

I knew the wedding was to begin at 3:00 PM. The drive would take me an AARP-generous 30 minutes. I was to leave NO LATER THAN 2:15!

I am happy to report that this wedding has a happy ending. I arrived at precisely 3:00 PM. Whisking by a flurry of activity (caterers, musicians, florists) — as I approached the house it never once occurred to me that none of these people were guests.

When I walked in, the host was running around doing…things. He stopped at the entrance long enough to greet me with a wide-eyed, “Peter! You are here!”

Still nothing clicked. I was too busy brimming with pride that I — Peter Hamilton Travis — was finally ON TIME!!! Which I announced — without provocation — to anyone I encountered. Like a member of the quartet, or a bartender:

“Hey! Look who is here at 3:00 on the dot.”

“Gee, what time is it? Well, look at that! 3:00 PM.”

Hi! Someone must tell the brides that I’m here — on time!”

Never once did it occur to me that I was the only guest in sight. Even by 3:15. Which is when I pulled the unprecidently gracious host aside and jokingly asked:

“So…I am on time, right?”

To which he replied with a huge, gracious smile:

“Of course! We love having you here!”

Painful pause. Still smarts.

“The wedding starts at 4:00.”

Twist. Crack. Snap. Then he disappeared.

“Would you excuse me, I have to shower and dress…”

So I sat in my car for half an hour listening to Marilyn sing about Morris chairs.


PETER HAMILTON TRAVIS is handing in this column three days early. And why not?