A message for chronically late people – signed… your aggressively punctual friend
For me, this is rant is long overdue. Meaning it might be an example of one of the few times in my life I’ve actually been late for something.
Yes, I’m that guy. The guy who’s always on time. Somehow. Or even more bafflingly, early. (Ever experienced that? Nope? Just me?)
And I manage to be that guy in London, of all places. A city that basically encourages tardiness, coaxing it along nicely with every cancelled train, glacial bus and its general daily chaos, slowing down its six million plus inhabitants at every turn, seemingly.
But believe it or not, people like myself prove that it is actually possible to arrange a time and place to be and, you know, be there at that time – and that place. It is not as impossible a task as essentially everyone in my life would have me believe it is. Laters, as I’m now branding them, imaginatively.
But I’m not writing this to brag about my own dazzling ability to be on time – described perfectly as ‘aggressively punctual,’ once in a one-woman play I watched. Because, believe me, it is a pretty useless skill to possess and really doesn’t bring a lot of joy your way. In essence, it’s signing up for a lifetime of waiting around, being filled with rage and secretly despising pretty much everyone you know.
No, instead, I’m writing with some much-needed advice for those of you out there who are chronically late. So consistently late, in many cases, you don’t even recognise it as ‘a thing’ anymore. Rather, just part of your ‘personality.’ But I want to deliver some home-truths to you today. I’m just sorry you’ve had to wait so long to hear them. GUESS NOW YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS.
- It is NOT cute.
Now this is a disturbingly common misconception among those who are eternally late. At some point in life, I fear you must have been given the impression there was something endearing about your inability to wrap your head around the concepts of time and distance. You turn up, whenever you damn well feel like it, and roll out phrases like, ‘oh, you know what I’m like!’ ‘It wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t half an hour late!’ And, with a big grin, proclaiming: ‘I’m just SUCH a mess!’ Said almost, dare I say, proudly. Listen carefully – there is nothing charming about your misguided belief that your time is more important than someone else’s. It’s selfish. Plain and simple. And rather than trying to pass it off as part of as a quirk, what you should be doing, instead, is my second point…
- Apologise, OK?!
Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how often the Laters bypass this social norm. Which is even more surprising given they had so much time, stuck on that perpetually delayed bus they’re forever destined to catch, to come out with a half decent apology. Yet I tend to find the Laters’ ability to give a sufficiently apology is out there, in the ether, missing – along with their ability to successfully meet people on time. And your excuses! Pah. Please, if you must be late, try and come up with something resembling a passable explanation. Not ‘I set off late.’ That’s not an excuse. That’s clarifying that you never intended to be on time in the first place. Which brings me to my next – very important – point.
- You choose to be late.
Now, let me outline exactly who I’m aiming this point at – lest there be any confusion. Sometimes we’re all late. (Well, not me, but most of us.) Shit does, of course, sometimes happen. Trains are genuinely cancelled. Planes are really delayed. Or, you know, a pigeon really did fly into you on London Bridge and cause you a five-minute panic attack as you thought you’d been shot with an air-rifle. Sometimes such horrors do occur. Especially in London. And when they do, fair enough. We’ve all been there, and I’m not suggesting that every person who is ever late should arrive grovelling, ashamed and bearing gifts, pleading for forgiveness. However, if you are ALWAYS late (you know who you are!) then the fact of the matter is, it is a choice that you have made. OK? You may not recognise it as such, but that’s what it is. Every time you’re preparing to meet someone for a date, dinner, drinks or whatever, you make the decision to arrive late. You decide to set off at a time that you are fully aware, deep down, won’t give you long enough to actually arrive when you’ve arranged to. And let’s face it, the truth is, you want to be late. You enjoy being late. Perhaps it’s the rush? Perhaps it’s the feeling of someone else waiting for you? Makes you feel more important, does it? I don’t know. Or perhaps you actually can’t stand waiting for someone else on your own? I once sat with one of my most chronically late friends while we waited for someone even later and she genuinely looked like she was having an actual breakdown. Looking over her shoulder, wide-eyed, confused, asking: ‘Where could they be?’ Because to her it was such a strange novelty, waiting for someone. She hardly knew what to do with it. Yet that is what this particular Later does to everyone else she knows ALL THE TIME. But now, onto some actual practical advice, rather than just shaming the offenders… I’ve done just about enough of that, perhaps.
- Factor in your lateness when making the damn plan.
One of the most frustrating things about being friends with a Later is often they manage to be the exact same duration of minutes late every single time (!) I have one friend who is always, without fail, ten minutes late. Not eleven. Not nine. Ten. Which means there could be a very simple solution to her problem, not that she’d ever view it as a problem that needed solving, as Laters never do, but in a parallel universe, let’s pretend… and that solution is: set off TEN MINUTES EARLIER THAN YOU DO – FOR GOD’S SAKE! You’re already very consistent. You have a system that has structure and logic to it, of sorts. It’s just ten minutes later than it needs to be! If you reset the time you set off to ten minutes before whatever it currently is – hey presto – you will magically become, like me, aggressively punctual! (Although, admittedly, I’m not making it look like much fun right now, am I?) And if you can’t do that, at the very least, take on board my fifth and – blissfully, I’m sure you’ll agree – final point.
- You should appreciate us.
Really. I know so many Laters who have thrown parties and sat in complete awkwardness feeling that itching anxiety for those first few hours before it gets going, wondering if anyone will come. And who was the person sat with them during that time? Me! Without aggressively punctual people like myself, those kind of events would be a disaster. They’d be so stressful, no one would ever arrange them. If everyone was a Later, then parties would consist of birthday girls in tears from the jump, or stag do’s that never begin because the stag has already passed out drunk after waiting all day alone. Booked tables for dinner would be lost, as no one was there to hold them. You’d find yourself joining the backs of queues as your organised friend wasn’t there to get in line earlier. So you should be grateful for us. We make the world go around. And you, thoughtless Later, merely hold it up.
And that’s me done. Goodbye. Or should I say… erm, laters!