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Better late than never?

Posted in Aging, and Relationships

6298472495_2ba6accfd1What is it with people and time keeping these days?

On Tuesday, I left my yoga class immediately it ended, ran down the stairs and rushed to a restaurant to meet someone who had been hounding me to get together. She needed some information urgently for a crisis situation and that day and that time was the only ‘window’ we had in common. I got to the restaurant with five minutes to spare. And there I sat. She never showed.

Or emailed. Or texted or MMMS’d or BBM’d or sent a goddamned carrier pigeon. After 10 minutes I ordered a coffee. After 20 I left. “Oh, yes” she said in response to my email query – “I whad to go get my children and was delayed and … well you know how it goes.”

No actually – I don’t. 

I am an ‘on-time’ kind of person. I may slide in as the hand ticks the hour  – but I am there. If I am not – I would have called you and e-mailled and left messages. And will keep trying to reach you. And I will apologise.

Yesterday I went to a meeting a long drive from town. My host wanted us to meet at his office – so that he wouldn’t be distracted. I arrived a few minutes early, loitered around in the empty reception area and eventually took to walking office to office to find the man. He was on a conference call: waved at me, mouthed “wont’ be a sec” and went back to the phone. I waited another 10 minutes, found his boss’ office and plonked myself down. “Hi”, I said: “Here’s why I am here.” We had a good chat.

The first guy never showed.

A great pal of mine has a chronic ‘lateness’ problem. In fact, as far as I can recall, he has never made it to meet me at the appointed hour. And this is usually after he has rescheduled a couple of times. Last week he arrived a half hour late for a meeting at his own house. He walked in without a word of explanation, found that his partner had poured me a drink and made a crack about having “started without him.” Great entrance, very droll – but as Edward Lucas once remarked: “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”

The other participant was also overdue. In fact, they had travelled from town together. So were complicit in their tardiness. He proffered a cheek, kiss kiss and “we need to get going because it’s my turn to cook dinner and I don’t want to be late”. The irony seemingly lost on everyone but me.

I drove home with my jaw clenched: then gave myself a talking to: “Did it really matter? Or is it your ego getting hooked”. Maybe: my ex-boss used to mess me around all the time. I once waited 90 minutes for him outside his apartment.  He was eating lunch. Eventually the car-door opened, famous practiced grin appeared:
“Not really ..  We’ve missed our flight, I’m hungry and I want to slap you hard.”
But of course I didn’t say that out loud. He was my direct report and I had spent my time rearranging our travel and rescheduling all of our meetings for the next day. But I was furious. And so were many of the people we mucked around.

Was I over-reacting? An ex-colleague of mine thought so: “Chill”, he said: “it’s not personal. It’s just life”. I considered his words as I drove back to town on Thursday. And I don’t agree. It is personal. At it’s most simple the message is: “My time is more valuable than yours”. Dig deeper – and you’ll likely find contempt.
Woman Waving Goodbye from Cruise BoatAccording to the long established British Guide to Appropriate English Manners (aka the Lady Magazine’s advice column); it’s not just me. Tardiness has become an epidemic in that most proper of countries too. How, I wondered, how does the unfailingly polite Brit handle the carelessness of his fellow countryman? The Lady was clear:

“With friends who are late meeting up in a public place, be ruthless. Why should you be stranded outside the Odeon with nothing to do? If they are more than 15 minutes late for the third time, don’t wait another minute. Go home. Go off and amuse yourself elsewhere. With some people, lateness is a symptom of deep-seated unreliability and selfishness. You might have to get rid of them altogether. But sometimes they reform. Always give them a chance if they promise to do better.”

And if they don’t?

“But what to do about the gross offenders, who waltz in up to an hour late? They are hell. As likely as not they cause the occasion to overrun at the other end. Then everyone’s horribly late to bed and wrecked for the rest of the week.”

Strong language for a Lady …. and the solution offered here is firm too:

“Mrs Robson Scott’s (late of Dorset Square) method with such latecomers was simply to refuse admission. ‘You’re too late,’ she would inform them on the doorstep. And wave them off.”

There’s a great Arabian quote: “The hasty and the tardy meet at the ferry.” Good for them. But I’m with Mrs Robson Scott – from now on, that’s my handkerchief you’ll see fluttering in the breeze.

(Ferry Image in the public domain. Dinosaurs copyright Regan).

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  1. Even in LA, where traffic is stacked against you, I am pretty much always on time. If I am not, I call and I usually have a very valid reason. A few days ago I wrote about the end of a friendship. What I didn’t mention was that this friend was always chronically late: not 15 minutes but 30 or even an hour. I sat on her doorstep like an idiot up to an hour. She would call but I always felt she thought her lateness was rather cute, like a trademark. Oh, I am on island time, she would say. And I would put up with it. Because she was my friend. But no, it’s just selfishness and disregard for other people’s time and feelings.

    September 7, 2013
    • silvia

      I didn’t remember that attitude of her. That’s a very good reason to break up a friendship! Forget what I told you…

      September 10, 2013
  2. I had friends back in L.A. who were always late. I’m not talking just a few minutes but very late, every single time.

    I stop scheduling drinks, dinners, movies, etc. with them.

    September 7, 2013
  3. I know SOME of those people!!! I always try to be 5-10 minutes early for appointments, whether is friends or business, or just the hair-dresser. Some will never learn…. if you are ALWAYS late, why not catch an earlier train? if you ALWAYS have problem finding a parking space, leave early so you have plenty of time to find a parking space. Repeat offenders? I wait 10 minutes and then I just leave.

    September 7, 2013
  4. Pam

    I’m totally with you on that. There is nothing more infuriating, and it changes the tone of the meeting when they eventually deign to appear!

    September 7, 2013
  5. silvia

    I hate people who are chronically late. It drives me crazy. It’s lack of respect and selfishness, it’s carelessness.
    If I were you with the woman who didn’t show up and never posted you, I’d have eaten her face especially because she pressed you to meet. I’d do even worse with close friends who are supposed to care about you.
    Ten minutes late and not very often can be acceptable but no more than that.
    The same in a professional environment even if he\she is your boss.
    And of course it’s a personal matter.
    If people who are usually on time were more opened to follow Ms Scott advice, there likely would be less tardiness.
    Better never than late.

    September 7, 2013
    • Love that – better never than late.

      September 8, 2013
  6. Agreed. My husband makes us late when he doesn’t want to go somewhere, and I hate it cause I’m never late on my own. It’s. power trip.

    September 7, 2013
  7. Five star rant! Saves me writing it. Ahrgh, lateness is so annoying!!! I can cope with ten minutes. In fact, I’ve trained myself not to be 10+ minutes early for everything. It’s taken me four decades….

    September 6, 2013

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