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On Lateness

Illustration for article titled On Lateness

Are you a "late" person? I know a LOT of people who are. Part of it is where I live, and part of it is people who just cannot, for the life of them, be on time for something. I have had to fire employees for it - when getting a warning or two should mean you change the behavior!


New Orleans has a culture of being late on purpose, which annoyed me greatly when I moved here years ago. But I was sick of waiting on everyone, so now I have become One of Them. It's called the "Big Easy" because EVERYONE is taking it easy - not just you, haha.

The other type of lateness, though, seems to be the "I have no concept of time and can NEVER figure it out" lateness. This is foreign to me. I am trying to be less aggravated at these people, in my never-ending quest for empathy. I am not talking 15 minutes, or even an hour. I am talking about multiple hours late.


What made me realize that this seems to be a personal characteristic, a way of perceiving time, rather than moral failings, is that I have an employee with the exact opposite problem: he comes running in the door half an hour or an hour early, assuming he is late. He is always early, no matter how hard he tries not to be. He has a warped sense of time.

Exhibit A: Arbiter of Chaos

I learned a lot when I was pursuing a career in architecture, when my project manager was hours late to meetings. I had to run them. I'm sure this pissed off everyone involved, since I didn't ever know what I was doing. He would want us to drive separately, and I would beg him to ride with me, and we would walk to the parking lot at the same time, and he would somehow be two hours late.


He would make several trips back to the office to get something he forgot.

He would take the dumbest way to get to point b from point a.

He would take forever to find a parking spot (I found out later, he was unwilling to park more than 10 feet from the door so he'd just wait for a close one - he was perfectly capable of walking).


One of the employees I had to let go for chronic lateness, always had a story: got stuck behind the train, road construction, couldn't find her keys, couldn't find a parking spot, etc. Those are all legitimate things - it's just that she lacked the ability to plan ahead to leave some buffer time. But these things happen to everyone - she was the only one who they happened to all at once, every single day, and they always caused her catastrophic lateness (and she never gave anyone a heads up she was running late).

Exhibit B: The Master of Time and Space

Some people seem to think that time will stop if you want it to. A few of my late friends overbook themselves. "I have to be at the doctor in 15 minutes, so I'll run to the grocery store first and then stop by and get the dry-cleaning." I know one of my friends forgets about how long it takes to drive. So she just factors in how long it will take IN the store, how long it will take IN the dry-cleaners. She does this all the time.


Another friend of mine does not know how to count backwards from when he wants to be somewhere. When planning a short road trip to a festival, I was saying, "ok, if we want to get there by 11 we'll need to leave here like 8:30, so I need to get up like 7:45..." and this way of thinking blew his mind. He had never thought about it this way. He would have just left whenever, and assumed he'd arrive by 11.

Exhibit C: Queen on a Throne of Lies

I don't really know if this is an on-purpose one or not; the person who tells you they are on their way, only to arrive 3 hours later and they live 10 minutes away. What does "on my way" mean to this person?


I know someone who says she is walking out the door, when she is stepping into the shower. But it's reflex for her to say this. Is it a defense mechanism, because she knows everyone will be mad? I've literally been next to her when she texts this lie to someone. "I'll be there in 10" when we have just sat down to eat at a nice restaurant.

What I don't understand about this lie, is that you WILL be found out. Right away. No one will think you were telling the truth, when it took you 3 hours to go somewhere ten minutes away. This is what makes me think it is more than just deception or defensiveness, because it is so unreasonably stupid to lie about.



I know this was kind of a long rant about nothing tremendously important, haha. It is just something that affects my daily life. Last night, I almost got out of bed to go help my friend serve food in a bar, because our other friend was "on her way" for so long that she assumed she was just not going to show. I luckily got let off the hook, but that friend never did show - someone else just stepped up instead of me.


Lateness is an insanely huge pet peeve to me, but I am trying to understand people who struggle with it.

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