Dealing with Lateness in Myself and Others
I was running a bit late for a get together at my friend’s house, so I let GPS guide me there via the shortest route. I’d been to Dawn’s house many times, but not using this particular route. It involved lots of roundabouts, something new-ish in Cincinnati, something I have not quite mastered. Long story short, round and round I went, rarely the correct way, making me later still. Darn! Darn! Darn! I hate to run late, but seem to do it with some regularity. Does this make me rude or disorganized or just a normal human being? Indeed, what does lateness say about a person?
I expected there to be an easily Googleable answer. But I found a lot of dubious psychology instead. For example, an article in Inc.com, carries a headline that says, According to Science, People Who Are Late Lead Longer, More Fulfilling Lives. It goes on to call late people “eternal optimists” because they really think they can “grab a coffee, stop by to pick up the dry-cleaning, take the scenic route, and still make it to the office in time for that early-morning meeting.” The article goes on to quote a study from Harvard Medical School that says a high level of optimism can increase your lifespan. However, when you check the Harvard study, it makes no mention of lateness versus punctuality. It merely talks about optimism itself being good.
And beyond that, what if we labeled these late people as something other than eternal optimists. Calling them rude is also a possibility. Deluded works as well.
When it comes to labeling this behavior, I think it depends on who the late one is. If we are the late person, it is infinitely more understandable than if we are the one left waiting. And if we are the one doing the waiting, it depends on how much we like the one we are waiting for!
These excuses for lateness are funny when we like the late person:
- I may always be late, but at least I am consistent!
- I hate being late, but I’m good at it!
- Running late is my cardio!
- I will be there at 9-ish, heavy on the -ish!
My mother’s first-cousin, Gert, would fall into the category of a much beloved late person. When she died, she managed to be late to her own funeral. By this I mean her family started the funeral late as a fitting remembrance of Gert, who was late to just about everything her whole life. Indeed, she requested a late-starting funeral to help those who couldn’t find a parking place or had to take a last-minute phone call.
Another factor that comes into play when labeling the late-comer is their frequency of lateness. It’s easy to plot all my friends – and myself – on a continuum from always early to always late.
On the always early side is my mother’s family. If you come on time to one of their parties, I assure you all the appetizers will already have been consumed. And then there are those couple of friends for whom it’s a given that when we make our plans three weeks in advance, they already are running late.
As for me, I’m often exactly on time. My sometimes lateness is caused by the fact that there is always one more thing I can get done at home before leaving and that that one-more-thing invariably takes longer than I think it will. Or my exactly timed arrival goes astray because of a new roundabout that throws me for a loop, or as cousin Gert understood, the lack of a parking place once I arrive, etc.
What to do about lateness becomes the question. Without true science to guide me, here is my game plan for dealing with tardiness in myself and others.
As for myself, I know that once I realize I have a problem, I can fix it. In this case, Vince Lombardi comes to the rescue. He famously said, “If you are five minutes early, you are already ten minutes late.” Keeping him in mind, my new brand of lateness will be arriving five minutes early. Next year I can aim for ten.
As for others, I cannot cause them to act differently, I can only manage my feelings toward them. For the perpetually late, I will establish this bar: if they are the sort of person who misses planes, they have a larger problem than hurting my feelings, and I will be sympathetic.
For those who make planes, but don’t arrive on time when they make plans:
- I can have a talk with myself. If I find such behavior cute in the Cousin Gerts of the world, why can’t I find it adorable in everyone? Is this a friendship problem or a lateness problem?
- Or, I can have a talk with the friend. They may not know that I find their behavior endlessly frustrating. Together we can come up with a plan. Perhaps they can phone me just as they are about to back out of the garage. (But NOT as they are starting to walk out of the house as they may suddenly need to brush their teeth.) Then I can time my arrival accordingly.
The bottom line is like those roundabouts that started this story. There are smoother ways to get around my issues with lateness. By parsing this topic, I see ways to calm down about those friends who are on my always-late-list and ways to be sure my name is not on similar lists kept by friends. It’s all very doable. Were Cousin Gert and Vince Lombardi still alive, they’d be very proud!
Thanks for reading my story.
Click here to use your coupon code on my Etsy shop.