It would be an exaggeration to say I pride myself on my punctuality. I pride myself on my ability to apply mascara in a moving car, my Cartman impressions and my capacity for holding a conversation while eating a whole plate of spag bol in under 5 minutes. But one thing I do, automatically, is be on time. I hate being late. It makes me anxious and annoyed and I can’t bear to think of letting someone down. So I read this post on Facebook last night with interest. This was as I was waiting at a table in St Kilda for dinner, having arrived 10 minutes early. That’s just how I am. I don’t like being late.
Don’t get me wrong. The odd morning late for work, blaming metro for the shit service, when in reality you decided to stay in bed on a cold winters’ morning – that’s forgivable. Letting your mates down because you take 3 hours to organise your hair? That’s not.
We all have the friend who is always, always late. The one that belongs in our group used to be given the booking time 30 minutes before the rest of us, so that at least she would arrive before the mains were ordered. It didn’t make it fair, and she would always apologise for her late arrival, but we became de-sensitised to it. ‘You know me’ she would say breezily, ‘I never manage to make it to places on time’. Hmmm, I suppose that expectations are managed of course, but it doesn’t make it any less arrogant, does it?
The Irish take it to another level, but this is a country wide phenomenon. If, say, you are told by an Irish person to come over ‘about 8, like’ one evening for a potluck dinner and wine, it is understood you will not be knocking on their front door until, at the absolute earliest, 8.45. You get there earlier than that, well, fair play, but you may well find yourself smoking a cigarette on the steps and thinking the bottle of wine you bought looks quite tempting while your hosts are inside taking showers and yelling at each other about whose responsibility it was to put the spuds on. The difference here is that it’s a universally, although unspoken, understanding. Whereas when you are late and the other person is expecting you to be on time, then that’s shit.
I once sat at a table on Brunswick St for 40 minutes, nursing a glass of pinot and avoiding the looks of in increasingly sympathetic waiters (who probably thought I had been stood up), as a friend from out of town made her way from the inner south to Fitzroy. She turned up 45 minutes after the agreed time, apologetic but relaxed, saying she had forgotten how long it took to get anywhere in Melbourne by tram. This is where I would have differed, and if I was still on a tram 10 minutes after I was supposed to arrive I would have gotten off, found a cab, and gotten in. Again that’s me.
That said, accidents happen that prevent people from being on time despite their best efforts. I kept BBF waiting for half an hour once when we had only been seeing each other for a few weeks and I nearly hyperventilated with the worry as I made my way there on the tram ‘so so so late’. Would he still be there at the bar? Would tell me off? He was fine about it, but only recently did I tell him the reason for my rare tardiness – my late afternoon latte at work had exploded all over my pink top and I stank of burnt coffee and sour milk. One emergency trip to cotton on later, I finally started making my way there when the tram broke down and I had to walk. That’s somewhat excusable.
Habitual lateness is not a good look. It’s rude. It makes you look like you don’t value anyone’s time anywhere near as much as your own. And that’s not cool peeps!