How to handle tardiness?
June 22, 2011 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Let me get over a hangup, pet peeve, etc of mine-- tardiness. I value being on time (or early) much more than most people my know, (my gf, friends, etc), and when I'm getting late, I get stressed, irritable and visibly annoyed. This hangup is pronounced when I feel like the tardiness is because of others. In most of all aspects of my life I'm extremely whatever-it-goes, laidback. I want to be the same way with tardiness, but keeping with my goals of being on time. Are these mutually exclusive?

Examples: When we have a big dinner reservation, I tell people the time is 10 minutes earlier so that we aren't late (some friends have picked up on this!), and I get annoyed when others don't get there on time.
I don't like being even slightly late because I think it's kinda disrespectful to others, but in the end, most other people don't care about it (or everyone else ends up being late too). I don't like how I treat others (i.e. imploring my gf to get ready faster, telling fibs about reservation dates) when this happens and I'd like to improve.

FYI: I'm in a culture (US, mainstream yuppie, white) where being late to events (other than parties) isn't normal (based on my perception).
posted by sandmanwv to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a problem with any of this. Tardiness is something to be eliminated. It is a fault. It shows a total lack of respect for other people waiting on you.

I'm not sure how you could feel better about it, because you shouldn't.
posted by sanka at 6:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm the same way, but I've found that it may just be a matter of adjusting what you consider to be "late". Five, even ten minutes either way usually isn't a big deal unless it's something official like a court date, showing up for work or class, or any other activity which is more professional than social. More than that starts to look careless and inconsiderate. But some time in there, particularly for social events? Chill.

But fudging arrival times to make sure everyone is there? That's going a bit far. Just tell people when things really start, and let them come at their own pace. Showing up within ten minutes of the designated time for a dinner reservation is totally okay. Doesn't even really count as tardy.

I think you should probably just try to make a distinction between work and professional-type activities and social events. The latter are inherently less rigid, and a lot of people don't like to be rushed or directed during what is supposed to be essentially play time. So feel free to maintain your standards for work and professional stuff, but do chill out a little on the rest of it. Sure, being late can be disrespectful to others, but being controlling about arrival times is too.
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 AM on June 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

I see sanka's point, but I'm in the same boat as sandmanwv--I make an effort to be on time, and I think others should, too, but I don't want to be an asshole about it, either. I feel like I'm lying every time I pad the departure time.

One (little) thing for me is that I work very hard to never be early, even a few minutes--I'll walk around the block, visit the restroom again, anything. If I get there 10 minutes early, then the other party is 5 minutes late, I feel like I've been waiting for 15 minutes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:26 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oh sandmanwv, respect. This is me too. I'm much, much better than I used to be but it still definitely happens. The thing about lateness is that the harm is usually just in principle or inconvenience. I agree that it's disrespectful and rude, but like you said a lot of other people just aren't on the same page about that.

So a few techniques I use to keep from getting really pissed: I reset my expectations and definition for what late is. Instead of late being a second after the agreed-upon time, late is 15 minutes after (depending on the situation). People get a "snooze" on that if they call me before it's time to meet (my friends know this about me). I always have something to do with me--either my phone or a book. When they actually get there, I don't let their lateness ruin my entire night. I may be annoyed at first, but I deal with it and just let it go so I can focus on having a good time. That way the offense is much more trivial. I remind myself that the whole point of getting together is not to eat at that restaurant or whatever, but to actually hang out with these people and look--here they are in front of me.

All that said, I tend not to make plans that require a fix start time with people who I know are going to mess it up by being late. It's not fair to me and it's not fair to them. I make more fluid plans with the more egregious. Often instead of meeting those people somewhere out, I will meet them at their place so if they're not ready I can still hang out with them while they're getting ready.
posted by Kimberly at 6:31 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who is severely, chronically late, I just want to just you a tip from the "other side": Yes, I know I'm late. I know you've been waiting, and I should have been on time. I know it's inconsiderate, too. But please don't make me feel like I'm a terrible-awful-lowlife. I've had friends who have done just that. If your tardy friends are like me, they'll apologize profusely, but being 20 minutes late to a get-together doesn't make me a bad person.
posted by hasna at 6:36 AM on June 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

I can't remember how many times, growing up, I heard my mother say "It's better to be thirty minutes early than five minutes late", so I was wired much the same as you. While I still strive to be on time, I cut a bit of slack depending on the situation. For example, a few minutes late picking someone up at their home is no big deal, while being late for a business appointment is something to be avoided at all costs.

Then I happened upon the phrase "You're never late until you get there." That liberated me from feeling anxious and upset in instances when I knew I would be late. Instead, I simply make my gracious and heartfelt apologies when I arrive. I'm still disappointed in myself that I'm late, but I don't beat myself up over it.

When it comes to dealing with people who are habitually late, I adjust my own arrival time to suit or I come prepared to entertain myself as needed. If someone's tardiness really bothers me, I limit my exposure to them as much as possible, just as I would if they were untruthful or had some other characteristic I found distasteful.
posted by DrGail at 6:41 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another tip--at home, I never stand up until my wife is walking out the door. I sit on the couch, playing guitar or watching TV or reading the paper, until she's walking out the door. "Ready to go," apparently, means something so very different to us that I simply don't understand what it means to her--it certainly does not mean that she's, you know, ready to go. So I wait until she's actually going--otherwise, I'm pacing around the house or sitting in the idling car being annoyed.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [14 favorites]

Traffic happens
The babysitter suddenly can't make it.
The babysitter is late
Child is suddenly sick (perhaps in the car!)
The car had a flat tire.
The car's battery is dead.
The car just won't start for some reason..
That guy in the SUV is going 20 miles under the speed limit and passing isn't an option
Speeding to make it on time and a cop caught you

All perfectly unpredictable events that can make people late.

20-30 minutes is when I start wondering where people are. At the 30 minute mark I give them a call/send a text. "Hiya! Is everything okay?"

Stuff happens, no one is intentionally trying to disrespect you by being late.
posted by royalsong at 6:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

With hasna here -- chronically late. I am trying, I truly am. It's just, the subway is always broken or my hair looks gross or I can't find the shirt I'm looking for or my cat puked on my bedspread 3 minutes before I tried to leave or or or... the excuses are endless, and I always have one (although I've stopped voicing them because it makes me sound 12). Please forgive me, and know that it's not because I don't like or respect you -- I do.

I think, unless you're a prof or a retail manager, you should remember that people's lives are busy and cramped and they always have something going on. Even if you're ten minutes early and they're five minutes late. Bring a book you enjoy (the time will fly!), and if you can't, just think about the things you like about the people you're meeting with. How much you miss them and how much you look forward to enjoying their company. When they arrive, you'll be that much more relaxed.

And if you can't think joyfully about the arrival of your pals, perhaps you need new pals.
posted by AmandaA at 6:45 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to remember that the only person it's your responsibility to get to an event on time is yourself.

Padding arrival times has at least a couple of bad things to you: you're taking responsibility for other people's behavior, which sets you up for frustration, and people pick up on your attempted manipulation and take your stated start times even less seriously than they did before. This is a strategy that will work less well and cause you more grief the more you attempt to use it.

In fact, applying any sort of pressure is going to be counterproductive in the context of many relationships. My guess is that you'll get a fair bit of you're-not-the-boss-of-me rebellion.

FYI: I'm in a culture (US, mainstream yuppie, white) where being late to events (other than parties) isn't normal (based on my perception).

So, are the people you're frustrated with not part of your "culture," or is your belief simply incorrect?

If other people's behavior bothers you, you can tell them it bothers you. If they persist, decide whether the relationship is worth the annoyance. Beyond that, you chill out by chilling out. You can wait until a good friend tells you to fuck off, but it's better to do it on your own.
posted by jon1270 at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, I come from a culture where it's implied that "let's meet for drinks at 7pm" (with friends) can mean anytime between 7pm and 7.20-30pm. If you're lucky. Usually a range of 10-15 minutes is considered entirely acceptable even with acquaintances and strangers, for informal appointments anyway. Calls or text messages will be used to warn others if you're later than 10 minutes, at least, there's that.

I have tried to correct this ingrained tendency (I mean, on top of the cultural influence, I AM like that) to be at least 10 minutes late, but I don't always succeed, even when it involves stuff like doctor's appointments. I don't mean to be disrespectful. I know it can be annoying to some people more than others. I just can't deal with absolute deadlines outside of work.

If we're meeting at a station, in a corner of a street, anywhere where it's not like meeting in a bar, restaurant, shop, where 10 minutes late means the other person can still do something to entertain themselves in the wait, well, I will make every effort to reduce the delay to say 5 minutes, or, if it's a good day and the stars align, I may even be a few minutes early, but otherwise, really, if we're friends, and you're waiting for me at a restaurant or cafe and are sitting comfortably, what's a 10 minutes difference going to do that's so bad?

It's a gift, it's 10 minutes of void, of waiting, of absolute freedom I'm giving you, look around at other people, get a drink, talk to the barman, read a paper, make a phone call, write a note, daydream, look at that cute guy/girl int he corner, have an unexpected encounter with an acquaintance, or maybe just overhear interesting or ridiculous conversations so you'll have an anecdote for me when I arrive, instead of giving me a look like I just tried to kill your kittens.

What I'm saying is over the top on purpose, just for theatrical effect (another ingrained cultural trait, not my fault, really, I swear!), but really - if we're talking 10 minute gaps, while I totally understand your position, and am in fact very envious of your attention to timeliness, try and see it from the point of view of people like me, but people like me who are your friends and acquaintances. You're talking of people you enjoy spending time with. A gap of 10 minutes in expectations of punctuality should not deprive you and them of the pleasure of each other's company. In the grand scheme of things of having a nice dinner together.
posted by bitteschoen at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am like you about lateness. For my birthday dinner this year, I told people that a reservation was for fifteen minutes earlier than it actually was. I feel like this was legit because it was for a very crowded restaurant where we would not be seated unless the whole party was there, and some of my guests were coming from pretty far away. This resulted in most people getting there on time. I told them about it afterward and they were amused, though your results may vary. I wouldn't do this for every event, but for certain occasions I think it can make sense.

For something less structured, like a party at my house or dinner with a couple of people or something, I don't care nearly as much when people show up. I always have a book with me when I am waiting in a restaurant or public space.

To psychologize a little bit, I think I make it a priority to always be on time because ever since I was in kindergarten, I have been traveling very far to get to school and friends' houses, relative to everyone else. In college, where everyone was in the same close quarters, I found myself letting up about lateness a bit. Now that I live far away from friends and work again, though, I can feel my tendencies coming back.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2011

I heard my mother say "It's better to be thirty minutes early than five minutes late"

See, what I heard my mother say was "It's better to be late in this world than early in the next". Damn. Not fair.

posted by bitteschoen at 6:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Business - including showing up to volunteer gigs - non-negotiable about being on time. It IS disrespectful.

Personal - you are hanging out with people personally more or less because they are people you want to be with. So don't set yourself up to fail. If someone is perpetually 15 minutes late, then adjust your expectations. There is no use - and no real utility - in getting het up about people being late when you cannot actually do anything about it. Your spouse being late? OK, you guys can work on that, but just other people? Keep telling yourself that your energy and time are better spent on things other than trying to force people to change.

Practical - I always have something to read. I can check my email. I can make a call I've been putting off. For me it is the forced waste of time when people are late that pisses me off, so I try to forestall that.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:02 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I used to be like you, but living in the Middle East with a mix of Arab and Indian friends has forced me to deal with basically everyone being what I once would have considered late to everything.
I always have something to read with me and I've gotten so used to it that I'm a little perturbed when people are on time because now I won't have time to read my magazine.
posted by atrazine at 7:19 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

It drives me crazy too but I try to plan for it and deal, maybe have something new to do on my phone or meet for dinner at a place i know i'm comfortable getting pre-drinks or can see whatever crap is on TV. I also sometimes try to find at least one non-late brother in arms that I know isn't going to take forever. But also I've gotten more relaxed in my definition of on-time. I mean, the younger you are the lateness reasons are usually a lot of different levels of irresponsibility and disorganization, but now most of my friends are balancing a lot of variables and so I'm just happy to get to hang.

Also, if its a movie or something with a hard deadline, just dont suffer any bullshit, send a friendly 'we gotta go' text message and don't let one person hold the whole deal up. Can't be a cat wrangler.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:27 AM on June 22, 2011

I'm like you in that I'm always on time or early, and I value being on time or early.

The way I've managed to lower my stress levels around being tardy is by only taking responsibility for my own timeliness.

If I am meeting people for dinner at 7:00, and I show up to the restaurant at 6:50, then I have done my job. Any dirty looks from the maitre d are passed on to the rest of the party, whenever they arrive.

If I am going on a trip with my sister (who is always late), and I am supposed to pick her up at 1:00 then go to the airport for a flight at 3:00, if I am parked outside her building at 12:55 I have done my job. If and when she runs downstairs at 1:15 and tells me she has to finish packing, and actually comes down at 1:30...well, any delays or missed flights are on her. I won't assign blame, or remind her "we wouldn't be running through the airport if you had been ready on time", but I mentally let myself off the hook for it.

If the event is something I'm not willing to miss or be late for, then I arrange to meet my party at the event itself, and I will attend/enter by myself if they are late. If it's a flight that I won't take any risks on, I will say "meet you at the gate at X:XX".
posted by BigVACub at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some of it is recognizing the context - a friendly hangout get together with some friends is not the same as a business meeting or a formal dinner. Ask yourself - what are the consequences? Given I have quite a few friends who travel by public transit and even driving in the area, traffic can be a pain, 10-15 minutes is negligible for cases when it doesn't matter (ie we're just hanging out). For business, for dinner reservations... if you can't get seated, let your guests know that so they can (one hopes) plan in some cushion time. Or just tell the host the party size has changed, and get seated.

Kimberly and others have a good approach - you can only adjust your own expectations. Don't plan events with rigid start times and invite people who are perpetually tardy. Or make sure the event can still start without them - because it will need to.

I read something somewhere about people who are perpetually late - they tend to have two problems: first, an inability to correctly estimate average travel time (ie including the time walking to the bus or subway or getting on the highway) and a consistent failure to plan appropriately - getting ready to leave has to start before whenever it is you need to leave by to get their on time, but typically (and I've had this problem in the past) people forget that, and only start getting ready to go 5 minutes before they're supposed to be headed out the door - only to discover their hair is a mess, the dog needs to go out, etc and so on.

I tend to solve the problem by not having a lot of friends who leaving me waiting around - it just saves hurt all around.
posted by canine epigram at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I'm getting late, I get stressed, irritable and visibly annoyed. "

Remind yourself that it's already done, and there's nothing you can do about it. You will get there when you get there. It only takes one car accident while you're racing to get to something on time rather than five minutes late to disrupt your entire life.

I get SOOOOO anxious when I'm running late, but I remind myself I have two options: Get there when I get there, at the pace I'm going, and arrive safely in one piece and a few minutes late; or call ahead and let the person know I'm stuck in traffic/had a toddler issue/whatever and will be 5/10/15 minutes late. And then LET IT GO and be Zen about it. Because the anxiety doesn't improve anything, and rushing can only end badly (especially when one is driving).

(However. My husband is a late person and that's a different issue. I have three strategies for dealing with this: a) If we're meeting somewhere, I call him 10 minutes before I think he needs to leave to remind him to leave. This usually gets him moving. b) I insist he get ALL THE WAY READY before he starts dorking around if we MUST be on time. He's always convinced he can weed the garden first THEN get dressed and be ready in plenty of time. He's always wrong. He gets dressed first, then he can do whatever he wants as long as he can drop it to leave when I'm ready. c) I build in extra time to deal with his lateness and try to let it go when it's not mandatory to be on time. In short, he KNOWS it makes me crazy to be late, and I KNOW he has no time sense whatsoever, so we compromise by him going along with my hacks when timeliness matters, and me relaxing about it (as best I can) when it doesn't.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

My grandparents are extremely punctual and highly value politeness and manners and the such, and they contributed greatly to my upbringing, so i'm generally very punctual and value punctuality.

However, over the years i've relaxed that a lot, so what i usually do is just be punctual (or even early) for things that require so or have unknown requirements, but be very flexible otherwise.
For instance, if my grandma is involved i'll be very punctual, in argentina parties and gatherings require you to be at least two or three hours late, my portuguese friends tolerate an hour or two of tardiness, my indian friends will drop by anywhere from 20 minutes to five hours after the agreed time, etc. Of course being late for meeting someone in a corner is always annoying without notice, but waiting 10 or 20 minutes shouldn't really be a big deal, it's less stress for everyone, especially when traffic, public transport or other random variables are introduced.

But like i said, be punctual when in doubt, and then conform to other people's expectations of tardiness, you'll live longer, and maybe you'll convince other people of doing the same.
posted by palbo at 7:35 AM on June 22, 2011

This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as well. I consider being on time a sign of respect to other people involved. If I am meeting somebody at 10am, I'm there at 10am. It's not just "my time" anymore, it's their time as well. I'm respectful of other peoples' time just like I'd be respectful of other peoples' property or opinions. If I have a friend who is habitually late and always full of excuses, I'd eventually start to wonder if they valued my time in the same way that I valued their time.

Of course life happens. I know that dogs puke and cars crash. These things happen to me, too. I will call if I'm going to be late so that the person waiting for me isn't standing around idly, wondering where I am. Once in a while is fine. Half an hour late every time we're supposed to meet/leave the house/pick them up in my car? Annoying and bordering on disrespectful.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:37 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was raised in a household that adhered to the "it's better to be 30 minutes early than 5 minutes late" policy, which was great when I was a kid trying to prove I was responsible enough for a babysitting job, or a zero hour class meant only for upperclassmen, or a summer job. But it started to backfire on me hard when I hit my twenties. Every time I would make plans to meet up with friends, I'd show up about twenty minutes early. And then I'd sit and stew because no one else was considerate enough to be early like me. And then our meeting time would roll around and they wouldn't be there yet and I'd be deeply, personally offended. By the time they showed up, usually within ten minutes of our scheduled meeting time, I'd be livid. How dare they waste my time and be so disrepectful?

And then I figured out not everyone was raised with such strict moral judgement around tardiness. My friends weren't being bad people by being a few minutes later than the stated meeting time. I actually was being the bad friend by setting an expectation in my mind and stewing silently about it not being met, rather than speaking up and stating my needs openly and clearly.
posted by palomar at 7:40 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Traffic happens
The babysitter suddenly can't make it.
The babysitter is late
Child is suddenly sick (perhaps in the car!)
The car had a flat tire.
The car's battery is dead.
The car just won't start for some reason..
That guy in the SUV is going 20 miles under the speed limit and passing isn't an option
Speeding to make it on time and a cop caught you

All perfectly unpredictable events that can make people late.

Yes, any of these things can happen to any of us, even those of us who are always or almost always on time. But we're talking about the chronically late. Chronic lateness is disrepectful and some think it is even passive-agressive behavior. When a friend stopped being 20 minutes late all the time, I asked her about it. She said, "I grew up."

I have learned to accept five or even ten minutes, depending on the situation, as ok. But I have also learned, like BigVACub, to take care of myself and not allow other people's chronic lateness to cause me to miss anything. If the movie or play is starting and you're not there, I go in without you.
posted by Dolley at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Argh, hit post too fast!

So the thing I've found most helpful is just to relax about minor tardiness. Unless the situation someone is late for is very strictly time-oriented (like getting me to the airport for a flight, or going to a cultural event where they don't seat you until intermission if you're late), I don't start getting bunchy until they're fifteen minutes late with no call or text to tip me off. That's when I call or text to make sure they're okay. If I don't get a response in five minutes, I send one more text or leave one more message telling them I'm waiting ten more minutes. If they don't respond and don't show up, I move on with my day.
posted by palomar at 7:47 AM on June 22, 2011

Best answer: I think you've rightly identified that your habits around this are annoying and potentially harmful because they're disrespectful of people you care about. Nagging and lying are inappropriate reactions to someone having different habits than you regarding punctuality. Stating, "It bothers me when we agree to leave at 7:00 and you're not ready to go until 7:15. How can we solve this?" is appropriate. Stating, "It bothers me when I make a reservation for 8:00 and the restaurant gives up my table because the rest of my party isn't there. I'd prefer that either we stop trying to go out to busy restaurants together, or you make more of an effort to be on time when I make a reservation. What do you think?" is also appropriate. Have you tried to have those types of conversations?

For now, I think you should focus on the behaviors you'd like to change in yourself: nagging your girlfriend, fibbing about reservation times, etc. Give yourself permission to (possibly) be late once in a while so that you can work on those habits. You need to stop nagging your girlfriend before she'll be able to hear "Hey, it's 7:10--you ready to go?" as a neutral question rather than a nag. Your friends need to know you're treating them like adults (telling them the real time) before they'll be responsive to something like, "I'd really like to get there early to grab good seats--can we meet at 8:00?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:49 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel for you -- I'm usually right on time, and have two good friends who are always 10-15 minutes late. I just accept that about them, but as mentioned right above, if it's an event that starts on time I tell them I will go in without them (movie, play, etc.) That has immensely helped my stress levels. I really like palomar's solution above.

If these are good friends, supportive in all other areas, and they have this one quirk... well, it's not the worst quirk to have, really. I get what people are saying about it being a passive-aggressive way and disrespectful of other peoples' time, but I think a great deal of it has to do with upbringing. Some people just don't see it that way. I have two friends where being 10-30 minutes late is just not seen as rude in their families. So how can I take it as rude?

And, as others have mentioned, you gotta protect yourself. I don't accept offers of rides to the airport from one person anymore. Love her, but NO.
posted by lillygog at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2011

I came in here to say I TOTALLY agree with you and have the same problem with lateness bugging the crap out of me. I'm the kind of girl where 5 minutes early is "on time," 10-15 minutes early is the norm, and 10 minutes past is totally late. And, really, I still think being more than 10 minutes late to a planned event, when habitual, is disrespectful.

I use the same coping techniques as a lot of people here, but the biggest one is I try to arrange social events so my companion's lateness doesn't keep me waiting. We meet at the restaurant or event--I am not waiting for them to pick me up or vice versa. I've found that keeping myself on-time makes a big difference, even if I can't control others. I try to avoid sharing rides with my sister, who is ALWAYS 20 minutes late, every time, everywhere. For her, I'll shamelessly lie about start times and she's fine with that.

I also married someone who's just as OCD about being on time/early as me. That helps a lot! :)
posted by ninjakins at 7:59 AM on June 22, 2011

I still get crazy about other people being late (although I grant an automatic 15 minutes grace). But when I find myself getting crazy about being late, I call ahead and tell whatever party is expecting that I/we will be late. It's like suddenly I'm off the hook for time commitment, and I can go back to being sane about getting people out the door. It really is like a magic bullet for we're-running-LAAAATE!!!! crazies.
posted by Ys at 8:05 AM on June 22, 2011

One thing about being chronically punctual (if not early) that drove me up the wall was, when meeting people in a crowded place, it often falls to the early people to stake out and defend a space big enough for the entire party. This meant that a night out at a bar or movie, for example, would start with a stressful period of "Er, actually, I have friends coming so.." and "No, I'm sorry those seats are taken" followed by the glares of those other parties who want the space. Being early is often work, moreso if a sizable portion of your party is late. Late arrivals never seemed to understand that the awesome table by the window didn't just magically appear.

So I stopped doing it and would just wait at the bar until enough people would show up to claim a space. Maybe a bit passive aggressive, sure, but I found I was having a lot more fun when I wasn't starting the evening out playing Dad.

Of course, now that I am a Dad I'm never early for anything anymore, so it's much less of a problem. In the case of reservations where you won't be seated until all are present, I make sure everyone knows that's the case beforehand.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:13 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Wow, I really could not be friends with most of the people in this thread! heh.
Waiting 20 minutes isn't a big deal? Man.

Anyway, living where I do, everything runs on "Northwest time" (where everything happens 10 minutes late, as opposed to Island time, where things happen whenever). This drives me mad.

What I've learned to do is simply not wait. You have a movie that starts at 8? Just go in at 8, don't hang about in the lobby waiting. Dinner reservation? Seat yourself, have a drink and enjoy yourself.

The point here is to not let your enjoyment hinge on other people's enjoyment. If they miss the first ten minutes of the band, hey, that's their lookout.

I've found it more relaxing on both ends, for me, I'm doing what I wanted to do, so I'm good. For them, they don't have the crappy feeling of running up to the theater and catching me pacing in the lobby checking my watch. Similarly, people don't feel as bad being late to dinner if they come to the table and you're enjoying a nice cocktail.

Sure, this might be slightly enabling behaviour, but you personally aren't going to be able to change people's tardiness, the pattern was set long ago. Only thing you can do is cope.
posted by madajb at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also agree with you and have some of the same stress issues. I can actually "chill" when it's just myself, but we have some family friends who are chronically 30 minutes late to every planned event with kids (trip to the zoo, picnic, dinner, etc.) It's less easy to "chill" when you rushed around getting your kids ready, getting lunches packed, etc., then have to sit there with nothing to do for 30 minutes while you wait. Of course if it's a soccer game or something else where they have to be there on time, they don't seem to have any of the same problems.

I agree with the person who said that when the behavior is chronic and consistent, it's disrespectful and even passive-aggressive ("my time is more valuable than yours").
posted by pardonyou? at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2011

For me the frustration when people are late is not so much that they are late as that I have no idea where the heck they are and how much longer I can expect to wait. That NOT KNOWING whether they're going to take ten minutes or half an hour feeling is what stresses me out. That my friends would put me through uncertainty is what feels disrespectful.

What has helped me is acknowledging that outside of professional appointments, we are shifting socially from a "fixed time appointment" world to a "just in time" world where as long as my friends and I are in extreme touch about our progress via text - "I'm leaving the house now!" "We're stuck in traffic - prob about 25 min late" "Parking now - two blocks away' etc, we can incrementally adjust our paths as we go. Similarly on the waiting side - "They're giving away our reservation. I'll be at the bar." "I'll be down the street at Borders. Gonna find out who the hell buys all those Dragon Tattoo books."

Short answer: our solution is to overcommunicate about our realtime status. Someone breezing in twenty minutes late is mitigated by the fact that you have been in touch and know they are making progress towards meeting you.
posted by sestaaak at 8:40 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I can't stand chronically late people. I usually just penalize them. If I am making food that requires timing, you can eat scraps if you stroll in 30 minutes late. Movie starting soon. I am grabbing my popcorn and grabbing a seat. You can fend for yourself. Airport? I'll wait until it gets to Defcon 5, and then I am leaving your ass.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2011

I am punctual and get upset by lateness too. One year I gave up waiting for Lent.

I intended that to be a change in behavior, but it resulted in a change in mindset. (Warning people that I gave up waiting for Lent might have improved their behavior some, but not much.)

If I was supposed to meet people at 6:30 at a bar after work and they were late, once I gave up waiting, my options were leaving or enjoying myself at a bar by myself. Once I decided to enjoy myself by myself, I was by definition not waiting. Knowing I could have left helped too, because I wasn't being made powerless by the irresponsible anymore.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe you should have your girlfriend schedule all of your social engagements and then lie to you and say they're ten minutes later than they actually are. I'm not a fan of lateness, and I really wish I was late less often, but people who play MVP (most virtuous person) by seeing who can be earliest are also annoying. Dead on should be your goal.

A little side story: I just found out that the waiters at a restaurant I visit often think I'm seriously rude because I'm usually there half an hour after my friend. My friend is usually there half an hour earlier (sometimes more!) than the time we agreed on.
posted by anaelith at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2011

As a person who was not trained from an early age in being punctual, all this fretting and angst about being ON TIME is giving me palpitations. My free time is exactly that - free time. 1/2 an hour of blur, either before or after the appointed time is more than fine by me and anyone who chided me for not being there to entertain them IMMEDIATELY would not last long as a friend. Being on time for work or a play or a plane or some other set event is different, hanging out it just hanging out (and lovely and valuable, but...fuzzy round the edges!).

However, I have become more punctual since a friend who explained to me just how important punctuality was to him. I'd seriously never even considered it as an issue before (it's not an issue for me so why would I know it is for him?) - and certainly no marker of respect. Maybe you could cope better by graciously explaining how difficult it is for you not to be punctual. Frame it in a way that's equal to your slacker friends. Maybe it's as hard for them to be on time as it is for you to be late. Work out how to compromise when you're actually making the arrangements.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Work out how to compromise when you're actually making the arrangements.
Well, that's the key, isn't it? Be honest, ahead of time, about your plans.

I do consider my act of padding the event time to be a bit dishonest. But if you say you're going to be there at 10, knowing full well that you mean "between 10 and 10:30," even if you have very good reasons for wanting/needing that leeway, you're being dishonest with me. If you're always late, and you know you're always late, and you agree to be somewhere at a certain time, and you know you're not going to make a special effort to be there when you said you would're being dishonest. If being punctual puts a strain on you, and lessens your enjoyment of the event, that's fine, really--the world doesn't have to run on my timetable. But don't say you're going to do something when you have no intention of doing it.

Even the most punctual of us have emergencies. But if you have an emergency every single time, then you're not planning very well.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see your point MrMoonPie, I'm just pointing out that in my head social arrangements always mean 'around {appointed time}', unless there's time-sensitive action to be had. My default is 20 minutes leeway, and wouldn't sweat half an hour's wait for a friend. All that's required is for you to check that I understand you mean exactly that time and ask me to text or call if I'm going to be late.

Maybe the OP's friends don't realise that their tardiness upsets him to the degree it does and it might smooth everyone's feeling if expectations are voiced explicitly, people are not mind readers after all.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:13 PM on June 22, 2011

All that's required is for you to check that I understand you mean exactly that time and ask me to text or call if I'm going to be late.

But it's also perfectly reasonable for you to take the initiative and clarify that you mean "around noon, not noon precisely, right?" when making plans. You can choose not to assume that your default is everyone's default. (Just like your buddy can). In my opinion, it's the person with the approximate sense of time who is more likely to cause insult in these interactions, and thus should bear the burden of removing that potential miscommunication.
posted by amelioration at 1:25 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd say your best bets are to have something to do to kill the time while waiting for everyone to show up, and meditating a bit on how loosening up a bit on the tardiness thing would allow you to be easier on yourself when you're guilty of it.

As a personal example, I met up with someone in NYC a few weeks ago, so I brought a book, some su dokus, and some podcasts to listen to. This allowed me to plan on being early, and made her potential lateness a non-issue.

If you're going to be convening a large group of people, maybe you could plan on going to a restaurant with a bar and hanging out there for a drink while everyone arrives. Or look for a restaurant that will be better able to accomodate you if people arrive late. Or challenge some of your assumptions by talking to someone at a restaurant and see how big of a deal it really is if you have a reservation for 10 people and only 7 of you are there at the time. (I really have no idea about this since I don't work in that industry, but maybe there are some places where this isn't that big of a deal?)
posted by alphanerd at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2011

In my experience, the chronically tardy have NO sense of time. My mom (I am on time in compensation for her) literally has no idea whatsoever how long it takes her to do anything, plus seems to have a case of ADD, and any time the phone rings, there goes an hour. She is convinced that doing anything takes five minutes when it does not. Really, it's not disrespectful so much as she just cannot get her shit together.

This is why I bring a lot of books and entertainment for myself to do wherever I go. I have spent a lot of time waiting on late and the only thing you can do is distract yourself enough not to be thinking "Dear god, WHERE IS SHE?" every 30 seconds. And if possible, do stuff that doesn't require precise timing and everyone showing up in time for X.

You know what's really annoying? When I've had to teach a class and was all, "Dammit, I WILL start at 1 p.m.," but nobody except 1 person was there at 1 p.m. Sometimes you are just gonna be forced to be late because nobody else can manage timeliness. Sad but true, especially when you have to deal with a large number of people.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2011

Travel. Spend some time (weeks!) in south Asia or southern Europe. Realize how much of this desire of your is cultural and a bit privileged. Remember how fortunate you are to have the company of people you love, because someday you'll wish you only had to wait a few minutes to see them again.
posted by anildash at 3:50 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Business is different than social. Late to a business meeting without a good reason and an apology? You'll not be working in my field long.

Late to a class I teach? I tell students on the first day of class that answers to extra credit questions will be given at the start time of each class.

But be aware of cultural differences. I was doing a final phone interview for a candidate for a startup who phoned one hour late while walking on the street. He was aware he was late, but offered no explanation or apology for holding up the international phone conference. Ouch. Apparently his culture holds little value in timeliness.

Being among the last to arrive can often be a play for status. "I'm here, the party can now begin," is different than, "we may now begin work because (so and so) is here." In the first, the party may be just fine without your special contribution; in the latter case you'd better be as valuable as you think or we'll find a different (your talent here) next time.
posted by lothar at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2011

In my experience, the chronically tardy have NO sense of time.

Yep. I really don't. I always think something will take less time than it does. I really have no clue. My brain doesn't work that way. I am getting somewhat better when it's very important to be on time but it seems to take me considerably more effort and stress than most people. If it's a dinner reservation I know that busy restaurants often won't seat you until everyone arrives, so it's important to plan to arrive 20 minutes early (which, for me, means I'll arrive pretty much on time). If it's just hanging out to get drinks or other informal get together, well.. try to be chill.

Sometimes it seems so overwhelmingly difficult to get somewhere at a certain time that I end up wasting time and arriving late by overthinking it. (Note, I live in the DC area with possibly the worst traffic gridlock in the country, and where public transportation is frequently delayed; the metro I took earlier today was unexpectedly delayed twice and a trip that should've taken 30 minutes took an hour.)

I am sure it has a connection to upbringing, I grew up with mostly chaos.. mealtimes, chores, rules, everything was kind of unpredictable and if we made plans as a family to do anything it nearly always involved waiting and waiting and waiting because one parent was never home when promised. However I don't see this as passive-aggressive behavior. I see it as a result of anxiety; the parent who put off getting home did this because home was a stressful place. Likewise, I put off leaving home and am late for things because figuring out and going through the process of getting there causes me anxiety and I always think it's so much harder than it is.
posted by citron at 6:19 PM on June 22, 2011

Being on time for work or a play or a plane or some other set event is different, hanging out it just hanging out (and lovely and valuable, but...fuzzy round the edges!).

I'm just pointing out that in my head social arrangements always mean 'around {appointed time}', unless there's time-sensitive action to be had.

Same for me, but it's usually the same for people I make that kind of non-set arrangements with, and it's made clear when it is indeed a matter of "around" rather than "at". It's also made clear how long the "around" can be stretched.

I learnt to make sure that's spelled out to me after getting that assumption wrong many times. And then it becomes a habit for everyone, once you've built closer relationships with a group of people, you all tend to do the same. So technically, I haven't been actually "late" in a while, well, for that kind of thing at least...

But this also varies depending if the meeting is in some public place, and if that place is a regulars spot or not, or at someone's place, calling round or picking them up on the way, which is usually what happens, so there's already lot more flexibility than say "meet me outside the station at 5".

So I would imagine this makes a world of difference in how people view this "being on time / late", all these different approaches are also about different kinds of social habits, and different kinds of social groups, lifestyle, etc. (and yes, also different cultures/countries/areas etc.).

For instance, I don't think I've ever been to a dinner at a place where the reservation time is so absolutely o'clock literal that 10-15 minutes would make any difference in getting your reserved seats.

Then of course there is no stretched "around" for going to see a film, or a concert, etc. Or travel plans. (Though well sometimes the tardiness gene pops up there too... It's funny though, I always get to the airport ages in advance, but if I have to get on the subway or a bus and I know it only takes me about 5 minutes to the station, I'll constantly miscalculate how long those 5 minutes are really.)

Now, in the "getting ready to go out" department, I have gotten better in time, but I still am on the receiving end of the tactic that the OP uses with the girlfriend -- if you have to make sure we're out of the door at 6pm and it's for a set event and it's important, you are welcome to tell me to get ready to leave by 5.45 or even 5.30. I won't mind, in fact, I do appreciate that. A lot more than being nagged.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:45 AM on June 23, 2011

Best answer: I'm with you in hating lateness and I strive to always be exactly on time (never early). I have a number of friends who are chronically late. I find I am less annoyed with those who don't voice excuses, just apologize and settle in for whatever it is we're doing. I still get very, very annoyed, but I am trying to control that. If I have a book or magazine to read, that helps (though if you're meeting someone at a bar and it's dark, then that really isn't much of an option).

Also, I keep reading in this thread "the kid gets sick, the subway breaks down, my shirt had a stain, my meeting ran overtime" and that people's lives are busy, ergo they are late. That assumes, then, that the OP's life (or mine) is not busy and that obviously, since we can be on time, we have all the time in the world to wait for those who are too busy to meet us on time. I call bullshit. My life is incredibly busy for the most part. I work a full-time job, I take on anywhere from 10-20 hours freelance work a week, I have to pick up kids from school twice a week, I have multiple doctors appointments any given week, I have a dog that requires care, I have an event that I organize that requires my time, I have a writing project I'm working on. I am goddamn busy all the time. And yet, for the most part, I can show up to a place I am expected to be at the appointed hour. This is why I LOATHE when people are chronically late. All I can do is think about the work I could be doing, or the laundry I could be washing, or any number of things in the 20 or 30 minutes I am waiting for them to arrive. Time is seriously my most precious commodity and I will never have enough of it.

Everyone is late occasionally, I get that, but those who are chronically late, stop with the "life is busy" bullshit. It is completely disrespectful to suggest that your time is more valuable than those of your friends.

As for controlling your annoyance, OP, I suggest letting people know (kindly) that your pet peeve is tardiness and you are trying to be less uptight about it but sometimes you get a bit snappish when people are late, so you apologize in advance if they happen to show up to something late and you are a bit short with them. Let yourself be annoyed for exactly five minutes then tell yourself your annoyance is over -- weirdly, I find this works well for me. I give myself five minutes to (internally) be pissed about how long I've been waiting, then I settle in to have a nice time. Your friends may have wasted 20 minutes of your time by being late; don't waste the next two hours yourself by pouting. Don't show up early to things (unless you need to wait in line to get a table for brunch and you know by the time you actually get a seat, your friends will have arrived -- I'm a great placeholder in lines since I am generally on time for things). And ease up a bit on expectations. Five or ten minutes are acceptable latenesses. Finally, ask your friends to text or call if they are going to be late and ask them approximately how long you will need to wait. I find having an idea when I can expect them helps me get over my annoyed feelings (and lets me know if I have time to, say, get a coffee while I wait).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:19 AM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: Great answers, and didn't realize that there were alot like myself!

Takeways are:

1. Being 10 minutes late isn't a big deal, so I won't stress when that happens and I won't be pissed at people for being ten minutes late.
2. Fudging meet times isn't honest, but I should tell people expectations on being time and letting me know how to keep me posted about their tardiness.
3. Having stuff to do while one waits is a good idea.
4. Make new friends (or don't make as many)
posted by sandmanwv at 7:25 AM on June 24, 2011

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