It’s about time
Ionce dated someone who was chronically late.
At first, she could be 30–45 minutes behind, often with no explanation or apology. After a few months, when I suggested it could be a relationship deal-breaker, she tried harder. As time went by, I still waited.
Once I was cooking a lavish dinner for us. She loved when I did that. I like to cook. She can’t/won’t cook. So she can’t be expected to know the juggle it takes to prepare the various dishes to come out at the same time, ready to plate and be enjoyed together. You can’t let anything sit, cool and congeal. Cooking takes timing.
Explaining this, and respecting her usual tardiness, I asked, “Let me know what time you want to be here and I’ll plan around that.”
“No later than 7:30,” she said.
“Are you sure? No problem if you’re running late.”
“Nope. Definitely 7:30.”
She texted at 7:29 saying she was running about a half hour behind. I didn’t know whether to blow up or break up. But I didn’t want to ruin dinner or the relationship so instead I festered until I didn’t anymore.
We’re in a strange time, society-wise, when we need to respect, understand, forgive and even celebrate what used to be antisocial behavior.
For example, according to Huffington Post, even if I’m painfully shy and socially uncomfortable, I still reserve the right to be invited to your parties. And your other guests need to engage and entertain me with thoughtful discussion on interesting topics because I can’t abide idiotic small talk and “hilarious” stories about them and people I don’t know.
I also take offense easily (“I look nice? Isn’t that kinda lookist? Who are you, Roger Ailes? Should I twirl?”).
No, I’m not a self-absorbed toxic ass pain who hates people. Actually I do, but people should love me nevertheless because I’m an internet-diagnosed introvert and Highly Sensitive Person. Studies show I have superpowers that make me superior to socially adept extroverts you don’t need to tiptoe around lest you lose a limb blowing up their invisible emotional landmines. So you need to stop victimizing and start appreciating my special self. When I feel like accepting your fumbling accolades, of course.
Same case with Chronically Tardy People, or to use the clinical acronym I made up, CTPs.
An old friend who goes out of his way to be punctual turns purple when you mention CTPs.
He says they’re rude, self-absorbed entitled narcissists who think their time is more important than anyone else’s. A Psychology Today article headlined, “Why Some People Are Never on Time” says being late is all about defying power. A Reddit post suggests punctuality is a white Western patriarchal conceit and imposition of its self-serving cultural norms to control humanity, and offers this powerful argument:
Let’s take a dinner with friends or family for example. If I run late, should it affect the others? Is my presence that important? Or is it more a mental rigidity of the host/others, based on the assumption that people should be on time?
I totally get it: It’s all about me and mine; my beliefs, my needs, my reality, my unique and important personal agency. Your personal needs disrespect my personal needs. It’s my decision whether my lateness for a time I willingly agreed to meet hurts anyone. I’m sorry about your anachronistic, regressive standards for decent behavior, personal responsibility and respect for fellow humans.
Trump is the best president ever because he doesn’t care about respect and norms, so why should I?
This progressive sensibility makes me want to be chronically late for any Chronically Tardy Person. Revenge is a dish best served cold like the coq au vin I slaved over and then you complain it’s a little greasy because you were 45 minutes late.
My Chronically Tardy Girlfriend had the most understanding explanation for rarely being on time.
She said, and I largely quote, “You have no sense of direction, right? I have no sense of time. It’s pretty much the same thing.”
She was right about me. I have no idea where north-northwest is. Similarly, she can’t understand the passage of time between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. It’s a cognitive disability we both need to recognize and respect.
Wow, I get it, I said. Thank you. Sorry I got irritated.
But then my brain said, “Hey, wait a minute. Since I have no sense of direction, I depend on GPS. I do everything the GPS woman tells me to do, as if we’ve been married for 50 years and we both know men are drooling infantile nincompoops. I use available tools to compensate for my inabilities. And get where I need to be on time.”
My brain also noted, “There are clocks everywhere. On the wall, on the phone you stare at while I’m talking about my feelings, hopes and fears, and on the $3,500 Cartier tank watch I bought you out of love and not at all whatsoever to send a message and help you be on time.”
As many will confirm, my brain is stupid.
Yet it wants to offer helpful tips for Chronically Tardy People so they don’t come off as rude, self-absorbed, entitled narcissists who think their time is more important than anyone’s.
Such as: Plan ahead. Understand things always take longer than expected and leave time for the unexpected. Do first things first — shower, dress and get ready to leave well before you need to leave, and only then do other stuff as time allows. Recognize that nobody is good at multitasking, especially people who declare they’re good at multitasking. Take your Adderall if you’re easily distracted by too many things that suddenly need to be done before you leave.
Most of all, make punctuality a priority if you respect other people and their time.
If you can’t or won’t be on time, then accept that you might be an irredeemable jerk.
It’s ok! No judgement. Many successful people were jerks. Henry Ford was a jerk. Steve Jobs was a jerk. Even Gandhi in his youth was a jerk. Celebrate yourself being your real self. Punctual people who victimize Chronically Tardy People are also jerks, so you’re even.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.