Running a few minutes late? Not at all, because we live in the Lubbock Standard Time Zone where time will tell we’re having the time of our life

Lubbock needs new welcome signs.

It’s not enough to inform drivers they are entering Lubbock. They don’t just need to know our population size as they speed into town. They must be warned when they enter our city, they also enter the Lubbock Standard Time Zone.

Here’s the thing: Lubbock runs 10 minutes late.

Here’s the thing: Lubbock runs 10 minutes late. If someone from Lubbock says they’ll be there at 2 , they’ll be there at 2:10. Most planned activities get started 10 minutes after the time on the invitation. If you are punctual to a dentist appointment in Lubbock, the receptionist will be surprised and flustered. Show up 10 minutes early to a party, you’ll be met at the door by a disgruntled, bathrobe-clad host.

But this won’t happen to most of you, because once you’ve lived here, say, a week, your life is on Lubbock Standard Time, too, and you’ll never be early again.

I used to be good at this being-on-time thing when I lived in Dallas.

I used to be good at this being-on-time thing when I lived in Dallas. During that 10 years, I’ll admit, I was rarely early, but even when our family had expanded to include four children under age 4, I managed to be one of the folks who slipped in just before church or school or whatever it was.

And then I moved back to West Texas. A few weeks in, and late to yet another event, I was exasperated.

“I can’t ever get places on time!” I told my husband.

“If you’re early, you’re on time,” said my husband. (He’s German, so he loves clocks and rules.) “If you’re on time, you’re late.”

‘If you’re early, you’re on time,’ said my husband. … ‘Not in Lubbock,’ I said decisively.

I thought about this for a moment, weighing it against my more-than 20 years of experience living in the South Plains. I tried to remember a wedding or graduation that started on time. I thought back over the parties I’d been to where the host arrived at the same time as I did, 10 to 15 minutes late. I remembered one of my Texas Tech professors who would show up exactly 14 minutes late to class, one minute shy of the standard “walk” time.

“Not in Lubbock,” I said, decisively. “If you’re on time, you’re early. If you’re late, you’re on time, and you’re probably the first one there.”

I’ve asked friends about this phenomenon in the months since. All agreed with me that Lubbock operates on its own time, though our theories differ as to why.

One friend, who has lived here all her life, said she thinks it’s because Lubbock’s roads and traffic are so good, people don’t plan enough time to get places … they are counting on optimum circumstances. I have to admit, part of why I was more timely in Dallas was because I knew I had to leave an hour early in case all the other people in Dallas were trying to get to the same place as me.

Another theory, with which I don’t agree, is it’s a lack of respect on the late person’s part. But honestly, I never mean to be uncourteous and I know other Lubbockites who struggle with timeliness would say the same.

I think another Lubbock billboard may provide a clue. We are, after all, “the Friendliest City in America,” and one of the common causes of lateness in Lubbock is tied to this. Over our heads like a black thundercloud hangs the ever-present possibility of the Run-Into.  

The Run-Into can happen anytime, anywhere in Lubbock.

The Run-Into can happen anytime, anywhere in Lubbock. There are different types and time commitments involved. A Run-Into with a stranger can go on in friendly small talk for 5 to 10 minutes. The Run-Into with an acquaintance takes more time, because it involves a string of inquiries about family, shared friends and at least two reminiscences. The Run-Into with a friend or relation takes the longest and includes catching up, discussion of common interests, asking after Great-Aunt Vera and four “one more things” and clocks in at anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
The flip side to this coin is, as residents of the Friendliest City in America, we also make allowances for one another. I know, when I show up breathless and late to yet another social engagement, my friends may tease me about it for a few minutes, but then will shrug it off, just as I would in their place.

Finally, and I can say this as a prodigal Lubbockite, this area does have a rare and wonderful laid-back feel. Maybe it’s the size of the city. Maybe it’s the lack of traffic or the way so many of its residents still, in one way or another, live off the land. Maybe it’s the location, hemmed in by fields of cotton and wide-open skies.

One way or another, life just doesn’t move as fast here in Lubbock. And if that means we all get places a little later, I think that’s a reasonable price to pay.