Between Filipino Time and Hollywood Time, filmmaker battles chronic tardiness

The author admits she has a problem and wants to change.

The author admits she has a problem and wants to change.

By Lea Dizon

‘The late Lea Dizon.’ No I am not dead yet. I am here to confess that I have a horrible tendency to be tardy.

Actually let me qualify that. My inclination is to technically be late. I say technically because when one arrives within the grace period (the first 15, okay sometimes 20, minutes after the appointed time), when people are still getting their coffee and/or exchanging niceties, are you actually considered late? Really?

Fine… fine… late is late. I’m not trying to defend myself. I am here to confess my problem. Think of this as my self-intervention. “Hi my name is Lea and I am a late-a-holic.”

Anyone who has dealt with a problem will tell you that the first steps to finding a solution is: 1) to admit that there is a problem, and 2) to figure out the cause.

If you ask my mom, she will tell you that the problem is genetic. You see, I come from a long line of latecomers.

My Dad, whom I love to the moon and back, is perennially late. The moment my Mom, a stickler for punctuality, announces to the everyone that we need to start getting ready to leave, an alarm goes off in my Dad’s head that signals him to do the exact opposite. Instead of heading for the bathroom to shower, he will run for the backyard or the garage and start sweeping or tinkering with the car. No one in our family knows why exactly this occurs but this happens like clockwork and as you can imagine so does our late arrival to everything, catching a flight to Los Angeles and a college graduation included.

It could also be that being Filipino, I was culturally raised on Filipino Time. Consciously or subconsciously, we believe in arriving an hour late. My friends in the U.S. find it unbelievable when I tell them that the way we do it in the motherland is that we tell everyone that the party is at 6 p.m. but expect them to arrive at 7 p.m., and plan the program accordingly. They think that does not make sense for event organizing and wouldn’t it be easier to just all agree to come on time? Yes, my friends would be correct, but somehow, in as tricky as this system seems, we Filipinos have managed to make it work. Plus it would be a little challenging to convince 90 million people to suddenly do a paradigm shift.

Wait, I know what happened! This will take a little bit of Math so bear with me here. You see, there is a saying in Hollywood that if you are on time you are late. Yes this is the exact opposite of what I learned growing up. Nobody would dare be an hour late to anything here in La La Land. In fact you have to arrive 30 minutes early to be considered on time.

So I think what happened is that my brain made the computation and split the difference between Filipino time and Hollywood time, therefore my grace-period syndrome. I am neither 30 minutes early nor an hour late. I arrive 15 minutes later (not late, just later). Yes, I finally figured it out!

The truth is I tend to be tardy because, plain and simply, I don’t have a good sense of time. I live in a bubble where I think I can do something in just 10 minutes and always be surprised that the task needs 30. I always think this and I always end up surprised and so I often end up just a little late.

I admit there is a problem and I am planning on changing. I intended to do this on the first day back at work for 2014, but I was not successful. Oh well there is always tomorrow. After all, it is never too late to change.

The author is a filmmaker who tries to maneuver L.A. traffic, Hollywood politics and her love-hate relationship with one of her most fascinating cities in the world. This essay originally appeared in her blog, “Behind the Scenes.”

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