How about a little obsession with time?

Late-Late-Late!  We all know people who are late for everything.  Late to events, late to work, and some would joke, even late to their own funerals.  It is easy to find excuses for being late and we could each name a dozen “excuses.” People who are chronically late would call these reasons and not excuses. To those of us who make a point or habit of being on time, it is very difficult to tolerate the lateness of others. We see it as inconsiderate, rude and thoughtless.  We see it as preventable with some advance planning and foresight.  Nevertheless, we don’t seem to be decreasing incidents of lateness in the world or changing those who are chronically late. 
Maybe, those of us who are chronically on time are the real problem.  Was the world really meant to be run by a clock?  Maybe the punctual have capitulated to a crazy obsession with time while the “latecomers” are the real rebels.  Rebels who are willing to fight against the dictates of the almighty clock and a culture of promptness ushered in by our advanced industrial and digital society.   Perhaps, the “latecomers’ are living time in a more natural manner where life is based on cycles and not on a clock.  The punctual person is driven by the time of day and the time designated by a tacit contract. The meeting will start at 8 AM.   Be there or be late.  The latecomer is driven by their own necessities and by an inner clock: “It is still dark out;”  “I am too tired to get up yet;”  “So what if I come late, it’s not the end of the world;”  “I have more important priorities;” or “I don’t feel like rushing.”  The punctual person is horrified by these excuses: “What, I broke my neck to get here on time and the meeting was cancelled.”  
I once remember a major snow storm that happened when I was going to school at Rhode Island College. These were not too common but it happened on a school day.  I was working nights at the time but made it home and changed up.  It never even occurred to me to check school closings as we all know that colleges never close.  Well, I somehow managed to get to school amid the blowing storm.  Any reasonable person would have stayed home, official closing or not.  Instead, I proudly parked my car and found my way to my classroom.  I even managed to get there on time.  It would not have made a difference though, since I was the only one on the entire campus.  The school was of course closed, but stupid me still felt vindicated that I was on time.  This meant I was right and the world was wrong. 
Life is not fair to the punctual person.  But what do we tell our kids about the fairness of life?  Do you suppose hell is a place where everyone must be on time or suffer severe punishments?  Hard to imagine what could already be worse than hell.  What happens to the late comers in hell then?  What about the punctual?  Are the places in heaven guaranteed only for the punctual?  Can you be punctual and still go to hell? 
How obsessed are you with being on time?  Is there a place in your life for “time cycles” and not clock time?  What if you are late?  What difference will it make?  Can you be late and not feel guilty?  What does it mean to walk a line between obsessive punctuality and perpetual lateness?  Does anyone really care if you are late or on time?

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 12:28:30

    I don't think anyone cares whether I am late or on time, but I am always on time (actually, I'm usually a little bit early). I don't necessarily consider that a good habit, nor do I resent those who are late. It's just a personality characteristic. It's not something I have to work at, it just happens.

    I can top your anecdote with a similar one. I was going to UMASS in Amherst, but went to Boston nearly every weekend to see Penny, who I later married. I was taking the hardest math course ever, differential equations, and the professor had said that he would pass anyone who attended every class meeting. I drove back to Amherst in a snow storm so bad that the Mass Turnpike was officially “closed” while I was on it. Somehow I made it back to the dorm that Sunday night and showed up for the class the next morning. For the first time in anyone's memory, all classes had been cancelled. The roads in Massachusetts were not officially reopened until Thursday, as I recall. I did manage to pass the course without having to depend on the attendance offer, although I couldn't solve a differential equation now if my life depended on it.



  2. John Persico
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 14:17:30

    I will agree you are even more compulsive than I am about time Bruce. Maybe you need more downtime. The subject of my blog today.



  3. LM
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 21:23:18

    Ah, the L-word. People who are late actually are probably not thinking that their time is more valuable than yours. They are probably freaking out because they know how much shame is going to be rained upon them for committing the unforgivable sin, or perhaps wondering if it might not be better to just not show up at all or drop the class, or whatever, which also causes them to be even later. It has to do with not being able to accurately estimate how long things take, or organize tasks, or maybe trying to please too many people at once, or just – who knows? As someone who has a hard time being on time, I can't tell you how much shame is associated with it – even when there's practically nothing at stake. I understand about not wanting to be kept waiting, and I say – leave without me! Charge me your late fees and lowered grades – I am happy to accept those consequences and in return, can I not be made to feel like the scum of the earth for being a little late? It feels like being on time is valued more than being generous or honest or forgiving. Where is the commandment about Thou Shalt Not Be Late? How many people have had car accidents rushing somewhere to be “on time”? How many people have walked past someone who needed help because they didn't “have time” to help them? I have been dying to “rant” about this on my own blog, but I am afraid it will have more adverse consequences on my life than it is worth.



  4. John Persico
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 23:35:56

    I hope perhaps my thoughts can ease your sense of shame and guilt some. Maybe you are right and the world is really crazy and obsessed with time.



  5. Sebastián Corral
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:06:44

    I'm usually on time. But there are always things that can cause you to run late like not feeling well, traffic accidents, whatever, excuses or explanations, those things happen to us humans…The thing is, I have never understood why puntuality obsessed people seem to feel like they were superior to the rest of us just because they behave like machines. Like it was some sort of statement to the world that validates them or compensates them for something else. As with everything, extremes are NEVER good. Yes, it's disrespectful to run late all the time. But then again, it's even more disrespectful to be one of those idiots who live in constant anguish just to say to others “I made it and you didn't” because instead of arriving at 8.00AM you arrived at 8.03AM so…You're late!
    There's a huge difference between being a puntual human, and a technocratic asshole.



  6. Felix Erude
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 15:13:04

    Laws were made for man. Man was not made for laws. We have created this concept of time then subjected ourselves as slaves to time.

    There is a time for punctuality, and there is a time when it is OK to be late.If being late will screw up a person's other appointments booked after your appointment, then by all means try to be on time so not to be inconsiderate.

    If there is no real consequence to lateness, then chill out, relax and stop being so uptight. Find something else to occupy yourself with as you wait.



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