It’s Be Late For Something Day – yeah, it’s a thing – which we thought was a good enough excuse to talk timekeeping. Is being late rudeness, bad luck or good old-fashioned optimism? Hazel Davis and Suze Kundu share their views.
It probably stems from childhood. My parents were ALWAYS late for everything. “We do things on our own time,” they’d say pompously. “We march to our own beat,” etc, etc. They’d never be able to commit to meeting anyone at a specific time and even in my mother’s job as a home-visiting chiropodist she’d tell her patients that she’d arrive whenever she’d arrive.
Even as a child this would do my head in.
“People are SO hung up on punctuality,” my parents would scoff, as they arrived late, yet again, for one of my concerts because they’d been hanging around outside having a fag while the orchestra was starting up. I could always hear the mortifying clank of my mother’s bangles as she shuffled to her seat much later than everyone else.
We’d been known to arrive places a whole day later than we’d promised. As car-owners this was easy to do. We’d stop by the side of the road for three hours to make endless cups of tea. We’d take two hours to pack the car. We’d rock up at campsites in the middle of the night (no doubt having told the owners that we’d be there “when we felt like it” (*cringe*).
“Two of my best friends are perpetually, catastrophically late, to the point where we have to lie about what time we want them for dinner because otherwise the food will spoil.”
It’s naturally turned me into a right twat. I am never late. Ask my friend Alison, with whom I have been on countless holidays. She’s not particularly tardy but if we’ve agreed to meet at 9am, I’d be ready at 8.45, drumming my fingers on the table. To punish me she ensures she comes down, smirking, at 9am on the dot, sometimes still drying her hair.
Being a parent has made me MUCH worse, not better, as people warned. “I can’t guarantee we can meet you at a specific time,” hapless parents will shrug. “Rowan leaves the house when he’s ready.” Hmm. My children leave the house when they’re told to leave the house, whether they’ve eaten their breakfast/woken up or not.
Two of my best friends are perpetually, catastrophically late, to the point where we have to lie about what time we want them for dinner because otherwise the food will spoil.
My other half is no better. The child of a blind man reliant on buses, he’s used to being where he needs to be an hour before he needs to be, and ready to leave two hours before that. We are a deadly and judgmental combination.
Yeah, I’m judging you if you’re late. If you text and say, “Sorry, running a bit behind,” and turn up a few minutes after that, or you get stuck in traffic, then I’ll understand, but if we agree to meet at 7 and you decide to leave the house at ten past, you’ve decided that everything else in your life is more important than meeting me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that you’re actually an hour and 10 minutes late. And that’s offensive.
Look, I just want to remind you that, on the whole, I’m a good person, damn it! I’ve sent cupcakes to my boyfriend’s office with sticky unicorns of positivity; I’ve done a ton of school science shows for free and I totally give directions to tourists in London.
The thing is, like everyone else in the world, I’m not perfect: I have frequently stared at a stranger’s Resting Bitch Face on the London Underground, laughed when a friend has fallen over and unashamedly slated friends’ horrible exes plenty of times.
Yet these flaws pale in comparison to my worst trait. I am late for things far too often. I am so regularly late, my wristwatch is set 15 minutes forward, so I can avoid missing trains and planes. Except my brain knows about it and has been factoring this leeway into every time calculation for the last decade.
I hate myself for being late. I spend two thirds of my journey thinking up ways I can somehow make up the previous seconds and minutes to make connections or avoid congested pedestrian routes and the last third working out how to tell people that I’m late because… Well, because it sort of happened, really, and… Sorry.
Yet if I had left 10 minutes earlier like Google Maps had told me to, I wouldn’t have this problem. Why does that thing always have to be right? It is an insufferable know-it-all and if it weren’t so helpful sometimes, I’d have serious cause to be very angry with it.
A study was released recently showing that people who are often late could be more optimistic, owing to their hopeful outlook on traffic, public transport and their ability to maximise their available time.
This is often my downfall. I live two minutes from a bus stop. Getting my shoes and coat on and locking the door takes about another minute. So three minutes should get me from my flat to my bus stop. Let’s give it four, because no one needs to run. So, when my bus app says ‘four minutes’ I scurry out.
And that’s great, when it says there is a bus in four minutes. If, however, said app informs me I have any more than four minutes, something happens in my brain. “Seven minutes is ages! Why don’t I finish writing this paper, clean the kitchen and get started on that new Lego set” – in THREE EXTRA MINUTES.
“My boyfriend has taken to telling me we need to be places half an hour before we actually need to be there. When I cottoned on and asked why, he responded, ‘Unicorn Sparkle Caramel Princess Time!’”
This lot will obviously take me six minutes, after which I will run out of the door, one arm in a coat, carrying my second shoe, only to miss the bus and have to wait for the next one.
Check bus app: 15 minutes. “Oh, well I may as well go in and tidy that Lego away, then.” And so the cycle continues until I am attempting a 52-minute journey in 28 minutes and wondering why none of my colleagues have invented teleportation yet.
There is, of course, my other big time drain – big being the operative word. Sometimes my hair takes 10 minutes to dry and another 15 to style. With faffing and GHD-warm-up time, let’s say half an hour from shower to chic. Yet if I need to be somewhere at a certain time, my hair seems to sense the tension, and the ringlets become untameable. I become more flustered.
An hour later I am big haired, and late. Does my hair have special powers? Is it colluding with Loki, God of Mischief, to get me into trouble, or am I just being overly optimistic about my powers to straighten under stress?
My boyfriend has taken to telling me we need to be places half an hour before we actually need to be there. When I cottoned on and asked why, he responded, “Unicorn Sparkle Caramel Princess Time!” The unicorns and sparkles are an added Suzism to the fabulous Dr Mindy Lahiri’s ‘Caramel Princess Time’, which implies people from different cultures treat timekeeping differently.
Mindy’s (and my) Caramel Princess Time means she is always a bit late. My friend Effrosyni once commented that her Greek roots give rise to her casual timekeeping, meaning she will be at a place she has agreed to be, though what time she is there does not matter to her or anyone else.
I have a potential solution. How about we all have different timezones? For example, if Karl works on GMT, I could be on Paris time. My midday lunch that I am an hour late for would be fine, because my 1pm is his midday. Everyone is happy. Ooh, maybe we could just move to Paris and I would never be late for anything ever again.
Wait, there’s that blooming cheery optimism again. Well, at least I’ve got that on my side. It certainly helps with all the apologies.
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