For me, being late for something where time is of importance is akin to using mobile phones when you are supposed to be with someone else. The two arguments are well known:
# No, you are not ‘running late’, you are rude and selfish. And I don’t care if I sound old-fashioned, because actually it’s nothing to do with ‘fashion’ or ‘generation’. It’s got everything to do with basic good manners and respect for other people.
So says Greg Savage who’s in the recruiting industry. And the other:
# The chronically late have their reasons, but the price can be high. Many people struggle with punctuality. And though it may seem a simple matter of people being rude, it’s far more complex, says author Diana DeLonzor. “It’s really more than poor time management. It tends to be a lifelong pattern.”
She then goes on to exonerate the poor dears who cannot get there on time, suggesting it is a medical condition, not unlike obesity and all those lost jobs and so on are not your fault. No prizes for guessing what I think of that.
Extenuating circumstances – sometimes we are late, OK. We phone and apologize for the train/bus etc. We do it rarely – as rarely as the train does not arrive. Then there are evening parties where often they’re not even meant to kick off until 10 or 11. Then there are the customs in other countries.
I was in Madrid, expecting to be collected at 9. It turned out to be 10 and we were seated at 11 and served food at 1 a.m. That was Spain for you, one of the worst organized countries on earth. Ditto Brazil and the like.
We’re not speaking here of extenuating circumstances, we’re speaking of the unrepentant serial latecomer. And not one who has the medical condition referred to by Ms DeLonzor but someone who doesn’t give a toss about whom she [or he] keeps late. I read one forum where a man said he was always ten minutes late because the coffee machine was then free and he didn’t have to wait.
There is, on the other hand, the martinet clockwatcher, checking you in and out to the second and that too is a pain in the butt. At university, I used to wait about five minutes and then regard the lesson as having started. If anyone came in after that, I tacked that time difference onto the end of the lesson for everyone. As the lesson finished ten minutes early anyway, that took it up to the correct endtime on occasions, never into their break. Not nice but it did create peer pressure on the tardy and the problem was largely circumvented.
Back in schoolteaching days, there was a time for the rugby bus to leave for another town, two boys were not there, I asked the driver to wait ten minutes and then we left. Apparently one of the parents arrived a couple of minutes later and then had to follow the bus all the way to the destination. I was unrepentant and pointed out that that was the time the bus driver had said was the minimum allowable to get there on time for the match.
Fortunately, the head was also a stickler for time.
When the punctual meet the tardy
The Roald Dahl story The Way up to Heaven was all about that:
All her life, Mrs. Foster had had an almost pathological fear of missing a train, a plane, a boat or even a theatre curtain. In other respects, she was not a particularly nervous woman, but the mere thought of being late on occasions like these would throw her into such a state of nerves that she would begin to twitch.
Mr. Foster may possibly have had a right to be irritated by this foolishness of his wife’s, but he could have had no excuse for increasing her misery by keeping her waiting unnecessarily.
If it’s annoying for a chronically late person to be forever badgered by a partner to get a move on, it is almost soul-destroying for the punctual person to have to put up with a tardy partner, particularly when the punctual person likes to get there early in order to relax. And if you have one of each in the partnership, it’s nothing less than hell on earth.
One wants to get there in “good” time, the other wants to arrive at the last moment at the airport because checking in baggage is easier then. The problem is almost as grave as the window open people in winter versus the window closed.
The only exception to this, in my book, is when the lady is doing her hair and other things – well, one can’t hurry beauty. I used to arrange a time for my darling to pick her up, knowing she took forty minutes but did she start getting ready after the call?
Not on your nelly – she waited until she saw my car arrive, then started her boudoir antics. That was not nice and there were some high words. That was deliberate and I put a thirty minute limit on it, after which I’d turn around and drive off. That lost her as a gf a couple of times but in the end it worked out until one day when the hair simply wouldn’t do as it was supposed to and she thought I was going to disappear again.
And you know why I didn’t – because at least she was concerned with it. She got to learn that one and was always terribly contrite after that to get that extra ten minutes added on.
Now I know what many might be thinking – sheesh, that is so pedantic. Yes? Well let’s see you wait forty minutes for someone day after day after day and see how long you last.
There are two topics on my mind at the moment – trust and respect [more on the former sometime]. And lateness does seem to me largely to be a respect thing or at least a compromise.
Filed under: Society & human issues