"The hour is later than you think."

For the first time this school year, I overslept. I woke up thinking that it was awfully bright out for 6ish in the morning, particularly when it'd been raining all night --- only to realise that it was actually, oh, about 7. For the first time ever, I'd failed to hear my cellphone alarm go off.

That's the thing I used to hate about being a teacher. There's a bell that goes at a specific time, and all the students are expected to be in the morning assembly area by that time, so naturally all the teachers ought to be there too. I've been fortunate enough that no boss of mine in the schools I've taught in has been anal-retentive enough to pick on teachers who are occasionally late for school and/or miss assembly. But all those years I spent as a student in less forgiving environments has left me feeling the burden of sin whenever I'm tardy in getting to school.

I suspect it all goes back to the very first time in my life I ever overslept for school, some time in Primary One (first grade). I was attending the most Chinese authoritarian school in Singapore bar none, and when my father brought me into the school compound (obviously, I'd missed the school bus), some witch of a teacher sternly and repeatedly interrogated me: "Why were you late?" To which I could only haplessly, mousily reply, "I overslept." Plus all this was conducted in Mandarin, which my father didn't speak, so he was helpless too, reduced to a smiling explanation in English to try to appease the woman.

I don't remember if or how I was punished, but the lesson remains: Thou shalt not be late for school.

Of course, Terz will tell you that while I'm rarely late for work, in recent months I've tended to be late for, er, everything else. I think my father's tardiness syndrome is hereditary. Pretty soon, I'm going to have to resort to my mother's tactic of saying that things are scheduled half an hour earlier than they really are, so as to compensate for all the usual delays and actually ensure that I turn up on time.

I think I'm going to need a louder alarm.


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