This week I went on a dreadful training course, one I'll forget quicker than what I was supposed to learn. On the first day, I was slightly late. It was a combination of not being able to use the maps on my iPhone properly thanks to Apple's recent updates, and my inability to navigate round buildings that are circular. Either way, I made it inside. As I apologised, What I wanted to say was, "Yeah, yeah, fuck off clean shirt, it's only a fucking training course", but instead, I was just really annoyed at myself for my lack of time-keeping.
The next day, I noticed a girl had arrived late. We all did in the room. I was smug at this point, making sure not only to arrive on-time, but walking most of my journey. Yet, in she waddled in, and eyebrows were raised higher than Jack Nicholson's by all of us. The session hadn't started yet, but the disruption her late arrival had caused (read: none whatsoever) was enough to rile up those in-charge that day. Dependent on her excuse, were we right to bitch and whine about her tardiness, or were we just a dying breed as most people in general have lost respect for good ole fashioned punctuality?
I suppose let's look at the facts. That being late is incredibly annoying for whoever is waiting for that person. Be it your girlfriend at the tube station whilst it's raining, or your mate at the pub even though the football's on and you're settled-in with a pint. What is it that winds the 'waiter' up? Is it the fear that they might have been stood-up? Or more the insult that they've managed to make it there on-time, but the 'running later' hasn't bothered to do so as well? Are those who make it to places on time a dying breed, or is it that we don't need to rely on being in a certain place at an exact time, thanks to the wonders of modern mobile technology?
Gone are the days where teenagers would tell their mates they'd meet them outside Camden Tube on a Saturday afternoon at 1pm, and if you were ten minutes late, you'd miss your group of mates with no risk of meeting up with them for the rest of the day. I've always known poor timekeeping to be a sign of disrespect, and I've even known it to be an ultimate deal breaker when it comes to relationships with some people (obviously not any of mine). "Oh, you know what she's like, they'd be late for their own funeral!" Really? Would they? Surely that doesn't even begin to make any proper sense.
I think there's two levels of being late. My conscience is always heavy if I know someone will be waiting in a pub on their own, but if I'm meeting a group, then I can sometimes excuse it. I mean, it's not so bad, is it? Obviously that doesn't include situations like waiting for friends at airports or train stations, but that's another different matter completely. Or is it? Then there's the tricks of the punctual trade. I wonder how many of us are guilty for texting our lonely friend that the next station is the one you're meant to be getting off at but you're actually still miles away and already half hour late?
There's also the psychological edge to being late to consider. If it's a group of people somebody is meeting, nobody wants to be the one who looks stood up. Surprisingly, a lot of people actually can't handle waiting somewhere on their own for just a little while. Thus they say 8pm, then purposely get there for 8:10 to minimise their lone time on the off chance the 'running later' isn't on time as well Which you can easily combat by simply telling all your pals to arrive somewhere ten minutes earlier, and arriving ten minutes later yourself, hopefully meaning everything goes full-circle and you both end up arriving together, at the same time aka the "real" time.
But most people don't mean to be late. Most people don't actually mean it, or it's a one-off. The ones that we need to crack down on are the serial offenders. The ones who know they'll be late and that you know will be late. Despite this insider-knowledge, you're still decent (and stupid) enough to get there on time, because you know the one fucking time you arrive late is the one they'll be on bloody time. We have to find a way to stop these types, and make them pay for holding us back, and up, in life.
One punishment for late arrivals I've seen is the "oh you're here now? Well go buy us a drink now" routine. Which is a brilliant little scheme, thanks to the 'running later' having no leg to stand on for being late, and in our own little perfect passive-aggressive world, does also help break the ice for the and calms the 'waiter' down. I'd also suggest that if you're waiting for a 'running later', treat yourself to that extra pint on arrival and drink it slowly. However, if it's a date, and you finish said pint before your date arrives, then it's time to leave, and your revenge is complete. They're not only late, but they've also been stood up. Sorted.