When did it become OK to be late? When did it become ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ to keep friends, colleagues, or even clients waiting? Why did I not receive the memo about adding fifteen or twenty minutes onto arranged meeting times, as a general rule of thumb?
I am so sick of lateness and the way in which it seems to be spreading, like a disease, throughout society. As someone who has been raised to believe that poor punctuality is the height of rudeness, I cannot comprehend why so many people around me seem to think that being late on a regular basis is OK. My parents are never late – in fact, they are always early – and my childminder used to claim that she’d ‘rather be two hours early than ten minutes late’, on a regular basis. So yes, I have been socialised into loathing lateness. But isn’t that just basic manners?
Being late is rude
There is surely nothing ruder than keeping people waiting. Friend, colleague, or client – the longer you keep people waiting for you, the more of their time you unnecessarily waste. I have had friends in the past who are simply incapable of timekeeping. Every time we met up they would be late by about ten or fifteen minutes. Sometimes without an apology. What I’m starting to infer from society is the fact that people get a kick out of keeping others waiting. They perhaps feel that it makes them appear important and powerful. They are so busy, that they can’t possibly make it to appointments on time and therefore, those of us that are seemingly less busy should revel in their glory.
Well, in reality, when people behave in this way, the message that I receive is that they value their own time more highly than mine. It’s OK to waste my time because…what do I matter? I’m just their friend after all (although not for much longer).
I can, of course, excuse the odd incident of lateness. Traffic problems, transport malfunction, bra strap broke. We all have our reasons. But many people are consistently late and thus obviously need to rethink their timekeeping skills – i.e. get ready earlier, and leave yourself longer to get there. It really is that simple.
It is not how you treat friends
This ties in with my first point a fair bit; being late is really no way to treat friends. Often when I meet up with friends, I am excited to see them, and thus tend to arrive annoyingly early in anticipation. Oh, I’m sorry…does that make me hideously uncool? Well uncool it is then, because friends deserve to be shown respect. Keeping them waiting is not respectful, and if you’re a serial latecomer, don’t be surprised when your more punctual friends start to drop out of sight and turn down rendezvous.
Lateness is incredibly unprofessional
Most of us would never, ever, ever show up late to an interview. That is a cardinal sin, one that is virtually guaranteed to prevent you from obtaining the job you so desire. Turning up late basically signposts to your potential employer that you are unreliable and disorganised – not employment material.
Why then, further down the line, does it become OK to show up late for meetings with clients or colleagues? We all have calendars and diaries that we use to organise our time – if you can’t make it to a meeting on time due to other commitments, then pencil it in a little later, or call ahead a few hours in advance to delay. Surely, from a client’s perspective, taking on work with or for someone who is unable to organise their time well, is a risk. If they can’t meet with you on time, who is to say that they will be able to deliver that project on time? Or run the team efficiently and in an organised manner?
What’s really niggling at me about lateness is the fact that it seems to indicate an erosion of basic manners and courtesy – things that make our society run a little smoother, and generally make the world a better place. When my grandparents were in their twenties, poor punctuality did not reign to the extent that it does now and that correlated with other things – people talked to each other on the street, held open doors, threw their rubbish in the bin, and stood up for elderly people on the bus. With these small yet important civilities disappearing, my question is, where are we heading as a society?