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Late! Late! For A Very Important Date!

My oldest sister, Kay, is well known for her tardiness, but this last time literally took the wedding cake.

We were all invited to a very close and life-long family friend’s wedding. The bride, Linda and her groom, Mark, were both good friends of our family who happened to fall in love and tie the knot. The wedding was a very small and simple but gorgeous outdoor affair with the bride in ivory and the maid of honor in black. The reception followed immediately after, at the same location with a very nice catered buffet. My husband’s family as well as mine were all in attendance, and while we were all congratulating the bride and groom, Linda asked me if Kay were all right as she had noticed her absence, and Kay had RSVP’ed in the positive for herself and Kay’s husband and adult son. We were hoping that Linda hadn’t noticed Kay’s absence, and said we did not know where Kay and her family could be (this was in the days before cell phones were popular). We continued to enjoy the reception, dancing and food.

As the reception was winding down, and the caterers were packing away the food, Kay arrived alone dressed in jeans, and rushed over to congratulate Linda and Mark, and apologize for being late but offered no explanation. She also said that she was sorry her husband and son were unable to attend. I was thinking that the wedding was not a good place to RSVP in the negative. Kay came over to greet the rest of us, then took me aside to ask where the food might be. Shocked, I said that I was pretty sure it was either packed away or taken away by the caterers. Kay then ran off to find the caterers, managed to find the lead caterer and asked that the food be unpacked so she could make herself a plate. And if that weren’t bad enough, she then asked for additional plates for her husband and son, as they were unable to come to the wedding. The caterer did help Kay with the plates of food, then afterward, Kay walked over to talk with Linda, all while eating the purloined food and making more excuses for her husband and son, remarkably making this reception about herself. I was not too aghast to rescue Linda from Kay’s bad manners and grabbed my sister for a “sister” dance.

All I can say is, I don’t understand how we can be from the same family. I love my sister dearly, but she is clueless when it comes to etiquette. Linda and Mark, on the other hand, never mentioned my sister’s bad manners. They are truly a classy pair. My sister told me later on that she had lost track of the time.   0515-11

A few years ago I was interviewed by Bob Morris of the New York Times for an article he was writing on tardiness.    As is usual with a media interview, the reporter and I talk a LOT more than what is actually used in the article.    Mr. Morris had his own issues with being chronically late to various appointments and meetings.  He asked and I told him straight up, “Your tardiness is selfish because it inconveniences others and non-verbally communicate to others that your time is infinitely far more important than theirs.”  He was a good sport about it, said he hadn’t really thought of it that way and resolved to try harder.

People who are habitually late are intrinsically merely selfish.  Their time and their sloppy management of it is more important than the promise to arrive at a specifically scheduled time.   For the person left waiting, time can stand still as they are held captive to the tardy person’s agenda and schedule.  Tardy people force others waiting on them to struggle with their feelings of being offended, increase their stress as they try to figure out how to get done what needs to be done in the decreased time, how they are going to shift their schedules in light of this delay, etc.

Being a polite Etiquette Hellion does not mean we become unwitting victims of someone else’s habitual tardiness nor do we facilitate their continued tardiness as if there were no consequences to actions.   I plan on serving my dinner party meals about 30 minutes after the scheduled arrival time and I don’t wait for late guests (unless they call me to report a delay due to some unforeseen obstacle like traffic).   If someone has arranged to visit my house at 10 am, and they don’t show up until 11 am, I keep to my schedule and inform them that I either now have no time for their visit which must now be rescheduled or we have a very limited time frame due to my other scheduled obligations.  Your tardiness does not constitute an emergency on my part to shift my schedule and therefore inconvenience my guests, family or other people I have arranged to interact with that day.

Employees who are habitually late to meetings and with due assignments should not be accommodated but rather written up as being a hindrance to the productivity of the office.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • mary m. May 24, 2011, 3:15 pm

    At many workplaces, promptness is a baseline expectation: That is, you don’t get extra points for being on time or early, unless there is a pressing need (not necessarily a need for ironing) for a few staff members to arrive “early” a few days a week (that is, unless they are scheduled to) because the schedule is different on those days, there are more duties or more meetings. A staggered schedule may suit the work flow, or not.
    At those businesses, it seems legitimate to deduct a few points if an employee is frequently late and has been asked to “Repent before it is too late.” Hard work and willingness to tackle new tasks can somewhat make up for lateness, though, if there is an agreement. The boss could either subtract points or say to the employee, “You owe me.”
    But at a few jobs, the staff, or the boss, may want to give consideration to a few people on staff who are required to, or who volunteer to, work an unpopular shift, or who occasionally work two hours longer than the rest of the staff or than the rest of the employees assigned to that project. If Johnny and Susie are asked to stay till 3 a.m. on a weekend night, you may not want to impose on them by listening to complaints about how they were five minutes late a day or two later… It’s all about common sense.
    And sure, organized perfect people may always be on time regardless. A shining example for the slightly flawed.

  • mary m. May 24, 2011, 3:16 pm

    It is surprising, though, that anyone would be late to a wedding. Was it a long drive, or were the directions clear to all?

  • Pippa May 27, 2011, 6:46 am

    I could welcome some advice here. I have multiple health problems including severe athsma. Occasionally on the way to pick my son up from school I get a bit chesty and have to stop to take my inhaler before I can continue on my way. If I do not my chest will get worse and this in turn will make it harder, possibly impossible to get to the school. Yet I can never know from one day to the next how many times I will need to stop. This can make it difficult to work out how early I need to set out. Unfortunately having to stop can often make me anything up to 5 minutes late at the school. A couple of days ago I was on a bus discussing this with my friend when an old woman started butting in and screaming at me to get there on time. When I politely pointed out that it hadn’t got anything to do with the woman, another woman threatened me with violence. It seems as though I’m expected to continue going to the school no matter what even though it is dangerous for me to not take my inhaler when I need to. What’s the proper thing to do here? Do I have a justifiable reason for my lateness? Are those women right to talk to me in that way?

  • MOL (meow out loud) June 20, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Now with cell phones so common it’s not only rude but unacceptable not to call even if you did lose track of time. I’ve done that sometimes but I not to let it happen often. I’ll still attend as soon as possible and if I were to show up when everything was put away I wouldn’t expect to be fed. I’ve even lent my phone to people when the bus is running slow so they can call ahead.

    One time I was in line at this take out restaurant in a long line when this lady came in and made a call saying she’s been waiting in line for the last 10 minutes and it was still long. I felt like turning around and telling whoever was on the phone that she just walked in the door lol. The line has been known to take that long but since she just walked in the door that was just lying and I started to laugh and still do.

  • bloo February 17, 2012, 3:16 pm

    I tended to be on the chronically late side usually just by a few minutes. It’s probably attributable to my ADD and completely disorganized mind but I hate it about myself and know I must keep working on it. I don’t know why I always think I have more time than I actually do. But I’ll never forget what my husband once told me years ago, “If you can ALWAYS be 5 minutes late, you can ALWAYS be 5 minutes early!” That has stuck with me over the years and more often than not I’m on time to things or a few minutes early.

    But we became friends with a family that was chronically late usually by one or two HOURS! When another family invited our family and ‘the Lates’ to dinner, of course the Lates were late by over an hour. Our host explained that the Lates usually were always very late and did a decent job of explaining this without rancor.

    Our host put it in our hands if we wanted to start dinner or wait for the Lates to show up (whenever the heck that would be – this was before everybody had cellphones). Since my husband is diabetic, I immediately said, “Let’s start now! I’m hungry!”

    We were eating on their front porch when the Lates finally showed up – maybe 10-15 minutes after we started eating. I remember that the Lates looked startled that dinner had been started WITHOUT them (horrors) and I still giggle when I remember our host calling out, “It was Bloo’s idea to start eating without you!” What a chicken.

    Anyway, we ended up getting close to the Lates and just realized that their lateness was a minor annoyance when compared with their better qualities. We just didn’t make plans with them that involved having to be somewhere at a specific time. Usually it was dinner at each other’s houses and my husband and I had plenty of time to be ready if it was just the Lates coming for dinner. If it was a dinner party I simply started without them and this quickly trained them not to be too late to my dinner parties.

  • Gracie C. February 17, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Pippa – those women were horribly rude! (I know this is an old post, so not sure if you’ll see it).

  • HistoryChic February 20, 2015, 9:10 am

    I used to have a bad habit of being late back when I was in high school. Once, knowing of my chronic lateness, my best friend decided to trick me into being on time. We were meeting to go to a concert that she had purchased the tickets for, so she told me that the concert started an hour before the actual start time. Pretty clever idea, but it backfired on her: I had decided that my lateness was something that I needed to improve upon, so I showed up at her house a full half hour early . . . which actually meant that I was an hour and a half early! We had a good laugh about it, and I mended my ways.