Fashionably Late, or Inconsiderate?

“Fashionably late” probably doesn’t mean what most of us think when we hear it. It means being late because everyone else is in the habit of being late, and it’s expected. It’s customary. We can see just how awkward punctuality is, when punctuality is not in fashion, in the painting, Too Early, by artist James Tissot (1873).

But punctuality is in fashion. Being late? “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Granted, it’s confusing when you’re fifteen, trying to be cool, and your friends have convinced you that nobody who’s anybody shows up for a party right on time. Never mind that the birthday girl has managed, in the first hour, to convince herself that everyone hates her – that they probably pranked her when they said they’d come to her party – it’s far too early to show up at her door. After all, if it were you, you’d still be drying your hair and putting the finishing touches on your make-up, or finishing up a video game with friends on Steam. Awkward.

It’s less confusing when we’re adults, when we go to work and meetings and parent-teacher conferences. We’ve mostly stopped pretending we live in a modern-day Jane Austen novel, and we realize that our allotted lifespans are not infinite. However much we desire it were so, deep in our secret hearts, the world does not revolve around us; the clock hands move on, with us or without us.

To be late is one thing; under certain social circumstances (and with friends whose policies you understand well), arriving a few minutes after the appointed hour may even be a good thing. To keep others waiting on us isn’t fashionable at all. It’s merely inconsiderate – thoughtless, at best; inexcusably rude, at its worst. If in doubt, communicate. “Did you mean 8:00 AM sharp, or would you prefer I wander in around 8:10?”

People who are habitually late may as well not make excuses; the excuses seem to irritate others more than the tardiness. Leave earlier and plan for unexpected delays. Check the weather and traffic reports. Allow some time between meetings for “bio breaks.” Make no excuses, ever. If Godzilla shows up and eats the freeway, we’ll hear about it on the news.

Maybe we’re late because we don’t really want to be there. In that case, why did we agree to go? Next time, say, “No.” If the answer is that we really had no choice – as in, “I have to have my third round of chemo at 9 AM,” then what does putting it off accomplish? It doesn’t get us out of showing up and doing the thing thing we wished to avoid – it just gives us more time to dwell on it and takes longer to get it over with. That seems unnecessarily painful, doesn’t it?

The only thing to do when we’re running late is to call, preferably more than fifteen minutes in advance, and beg forgiveness. “I’m so sorry, please, go on without me.” Or, “I don’t want to keep you waiting, could we please re-schedule?” I don’t advise asking twice; the third time, the answer ought to be “No.”

But take that to heart, if you are one of those strident sticklers for punctuality: Say, “No.” As one friend pointed out, the reason so few people are late for a flight is the high cost of not making it onto the plane. Planes full of passengers don’t wait. Nor should we, when there are better things we could be doing with our time.

I wrote this in response to a recent spate of old blog posts and articles demanding punctuality and stopping just short of calling latecomers unwashed heathens. Not that most of us can’t relate to the rant, but imagine if I said, “Next time I catch you making a typo in email, I’m going to send that sucker straight to spam!” Or, “One more grammatical error, and we’re through! I’m done wasting brain cells deciphering your prose!” Although I agree with the call for more attentiveness to punctuality,  there are few things more unattractive and annoying than a churlish martyr lecturing others on how to behave. Be forgiving and compassionate, lest karma throw a blown tire and a broken timing belt your way, or worse.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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15 thoughts on “Fashionably Late, or Inconsiderate?”

    1. You sound similar to my husband, in that punctuality doesn’t appear to be a cultural trait, but is very much a personal one. The tone of the article you mentioned irritates me as much as the rants I cited – a double-standard is NOT okay. It states: “Indian people have a strong perception that things do happen on time in the western countries and they do expect their western counterpart to be on time.” If I were doing business in India, and my colleagues kept me waiting, I’d have no problem doing the same. Rather than arrive early and be angry over it for the 30th time, I’d sleep in a bit. Have a leisurely breakfast. You know, “When in Rome…” or New Delhi… I believe in the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Weekend Update: Week 4 Down, 48 to Go!My Profile

  1. Very well said! I remember someone who thought we should be “fashionably late”, but I’m all for on time.

    1. The only reason to be “fashionably late” is when it’s a party, and you know the host well enough to know someone’s going to be running around (as in that painting) putting last minute touches on everything. There have been times when I was grateful for people arriving five minutes late, but not twenty. Traffic and airplane delays are a fact of life in some places – leave early if it’s a regular commute, or call if it’s unexpected. Simple.

      And YOU can certainly vouch for J.J.’s punctuality – if he was as unforgiving and rigid as the folks who wrote the blog posts that prompted this, he and I would never have gotten married, let alone stayed that way for 30 years! (He even credits me with being punctual – but compared to him, I’m a major procrastinator and slacker!)

  2. Hi Holly, I like people who make ‘punctuality’ as one of their values, but I won’t bash anyone who comes late (to a meeting, to a party, etc). I’ve leaned that in this world and at the current time that we live, millions of distractions (including those that are legitimate) are constantly swirling around us, plus there are scenarios that are beyond our control. Thus, I can bravely put forth that it is now extremely difficult to be on time always.

    My wife and I waited for a son to come into our life; and as far as we are concern, he was late. He is supposed to arrive a year after we were married, but he showed up 11 years later. No regrets. He maybe late (I guess my wife and I were distracted by the advent mobile phones and internet..uhuumm) but he nevertheless came at the right time. I guess, we could say, that he was fashionably late.
    Oops, okay, I’m not sure if this has any relevance to your article. 🙂 . I like your article, by the way.
    Ron Lacson recently posted…Kopi Luwak / Civet Coffee…, and the price to pay.My Profile

  3. I kind of mentioned this when you talked about it on Facebook but being late isn’t a vice I have. Matter of fact, I had to teach myself to stop showing up 45 minutes early to events, which I always thought was cool because I got to see how things were being put together, but realized later on that really people weren’t ready to see me or anyone else that early.

    My friends all know that if they’re going to be 10 minutes or more late not to even show up without calling unless I’ve picked the place to eat. They also know I have a 10-second rule if I’m on the phone with them and they decide to take another call.

    For anyone new I’m meeting and they picked the place, I give them 15 minutes before I leave, and we never schedule a place to meet again because now I don’t trust them.

    These might seem like kind of harsh rules but as Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…What Is Leadership?My Profile

    1. I agree. The thing I thought was unreasonable in the posts that prompted this was the “I’m done with you” attitude. This isn’t the land of infinite second chances, and shouldn’t be. In your example of “anyone new,” did they have your phone number? Were they ticketed for speeding, or in an accident? Was their loved one taken to the emergency room? Life happens. We can all be kinder and more compassionate until it’s proven they just blew us off (or they make a habit of it).
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Champagne and Strawberries = VindicationMy Profile

      1. Holly, I don’t give my cell number out all that often but these days I always schedule lunch meetings less than 5 minutes from my house, and they all have my business number. Also, they always know the restaurant we’re going to and who in business doesn’t have a cellphone or smartphone these days where they can easily look up the number?

        Still, as I said, since I book people at restaurants I’d have eaten at anyway, they get more leeway than they did in the past.

        I see I have to get a certain number of approved comments before my CommentLuv shows up with my business site, so I’ll get there quickly. 🙂
        Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Is Compassion A Weakness In LeadersMy Profile

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