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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.

{ 107 comments… add one }
  • AS May 17, 2011, 7:34 am

    I am trying to imagine just *how* late Kay much have been to arrive after the wedding and reception were over. Even if it was a quick wedding, it must have been at least 2 hours from the start to the end of the reception.

    This reminds me of a wedding reception I attended a while ago, of a friend of mine who lived in the same apartment as I did. This was a pretty large wedding as is common where I come from, and everyone in the apartment was invited (only 8 families, so not too hard). We had gone back home to change for the reception and were driving to the wedding. I was driving my parent’s car with my parents and 2 other neighbours. The three cars left the apartment around the same time, though we were not following each other (it is hard to follow in city traffics). We took a route that is slightly different from the one the other two cars took. The two routes usually take about the same time, and which one you take is just a personal preference. What we didn’t know was that there was a concert by a big pop artist in a venue on the way, and they started diverting traffic for the artist to arrive. The diversion basically ended up in us having to drive to the other end of the city and come back. We arrived an hour late! And guess what? Everyone who knew us noticed. As I said, it was a pretty big reception, yet if the hosts are gracious, they’ll notice missing guests. The MOB had started getting paranoid wondering what had happened. This was before the cell phone era, so we couldn’t contact them either. So, just imagine embarrassment when we got there! We had a lot of explanation to do.

  • PhDeath May 17, 2011, 8:08 am

    Hear, hear!

    My family-in-law is habitually late for all functions. They frame this as something cute, charming, and quirky: “You know us – we’re ALWAYS late!” **twinkle eyes**

    As my husband and I are the only one who live out of town (about an hour-and-fifteen minutes drive each way), I found this extremely disagreeable, particularly for evening gatherings when we had or to be up early work the next day. It took time for my husband to get on board, but we’re finally a unified front on this: We will arrive at the designated time and leave a reasonable time after. If family members don’t get to see us, or don’t get to spend enough time with us as a result of their tardiness, that is their prerogative.

    It took several repetitions of this format (and many deflected accusations of our “selfishness”), but it seems to be working out.

  • The Elf May 17, 2011, 8:19 am

    Some perpetually late people are fundamentally selfish, no question. I used to be an always-late person, but I don’t think it was ever about selfishness. In fact, I was frequently embarrassed to be late and would sidle into the event with chagrin. The problem was one of time management and a poor direction sense, more of a brain functioning flaw than a personality flaw. It wasn’t until I made myself develop little tricks that I became a much more prompt person. I write myself post-it reminders and leave them in obvious places (like the bathroom mirror). I use my phone as an alarm since I can’t depend on an inner time sense. I have clocks everywhere in my house and they’re all set a little fast. I use google maps to plot out a route in advance and estimate times to figure out when to set that alarm. I found a designated place for my wallet/keys so I didn’t waste time trying to find everything. These things seem so simple to many people, but believe me they do not come naturally to me. After adopting these tricks and getting into the habit of using them, I can now happily report that I am rarely late.

    So, how to tell the difference between the selfishly late and the disorganized late? I think the answer is in the attitude of the person after they (finally!) arrive. A selfish person demands the food be unpacked. The disorganized person recognizes it as their own fault. A selfish person assumes that everything will wait for them and may be offended when people move on. A disorganized person apologizes (once) and then tries to integrate themselves into the activity as it is currently flowing. A selfish person doesn’t try to change. A disorganized person attempts to do better, though they may not succeed.

    So, I disagree with you on cause of lateness (or at least some lateness, this story does seem borne of selfishness) but where we are in complete agreement is that tardiness should not result in inconvenience of others.

  • josie May 17, 2011, 8:26 am

    People that show up and then expect carry out meals for those at home, just amaze me. Yes, being late is selfish….sometimes there is a valid excuse, but not usually.

  • anonymous May 17, 2011, 8:44 am

    While I make an effort not to be late (and am generally punctual, with a few mishaps as is human) and feel terrible and selfish if I am late for a preventable/forseeable reason, maybe I’m in the minority here but it doesn’t bother me that much when others are late. Maybe this is because when we meet friends I am usually with my husband, and if someone is late for something we’ll just order another drink and enjoy ourselves until they arrive. I have one chronically late friend (generally only by 10-15 minutes, not monstrously late) and it really is a case of “Well, you know him…haha…want another glass of wine?”

  • tinytx May 17, 2011, 8:56 am

    My brother used to be habitually late. This was a life-long trait and my family (not me!) always accomodated it. He finally learned his lesson a few years ago when my dad was scheduled to have heart surgery, with the surgery beginning very early in the morning.
    I tried getting him to spend the night at my house the night before to make sure he’d be at the hospital with us. He declined.
    Day of the surgery arrives and my brother is late as usual and not there to see our dad off to surgery. The rest of us walked with dad as far as they’d let us, then immediately turned and entered the waiting room right as our brother arrived. I told him he was too late and missed dad by less than a minute. His response: “They wouldn’t wait?”
    This was the harsh lesson that set him straight and he’s now a pretty prompt individual.

    Dad recovered just fine, btw.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 8:56 am

    @The Elf, you realized your problem and changed it. So you can’t really say that some people just can’t help it. Yes, some people have a lot of trouble with time management, but as you have shown, it can be overcome.

  • AGil May 17, 2011, 9:07 am

    Though sometimes it seems I am facilitating the tardiness of others, nothing else seemed to work so I tried a new strategy with my constantly-late ex-boyfriend: I simply lied about the time. While I understand it is not right to lie, I would have to tell him that something started a good 15-30 minutes beforehand so we could be on-time or early, as I try to be. It’s not as good as some of the other suggestions, but as a last-ditch effort it did the trick!

  • KMC May 17, 2011, 9:10 am

    It is one of my pet peeves to deal with people who are frequently late, exactly for the reasons the Admin stated: It makes me feel as though you don’t value my time or that you don’t value spending time with me. I have started dealing with it in just the way you suggest. I stick to my own schedule at home, and at work meetings I start dealing with business when the start time rolls around. People who are late will have to catch up.

    There is another side of the coin – the perpetually early people. It’s one thing to show up early to a neutral venue and wait patiently for your party without complaining. I’m talking about people who show up 20 to 30 minutes early and complain as if everyone else is late. My grandparents do this frequently when the family agrees to meet for dinner somewhere. My grandmother will go as far as to call people’s cell phones to find out where we are when it hasn’t even reached the agreed meeting time yet.

    I also remember having to explain to my husband when we were dating why it was rude to show up at someone’s house 30 minutes before they are expecting you, as was a habit of his. He is never late for anything, but didn’t understand that being this early can also be rude in some situations. Because of his aversion to being even a minute late, we had to reach a compromise – when going to someone’s home, our arrival time is always five to ten minutes early, or we take one trip around the block until it is.

  • LBC May 17, 2011, 9:24 am

    I would have told her, “Sorry, the food’s been packed up and taken away, but I think there’s a McDonald’s on the next block if you’re hungry.”

    I am totally cool with people being late because of circumstances beyond their control. I know as well as anyone how this goes; I’ve got a cross-town commute and leave especially early in the morning because I know I can’t control how many car accidents might be holding up traffic on any given morning. Most of the time, I just end up getting to work early, which is fine.

    But to show up very late, underdressed, and without the companions you said you’d bring is such an egregious instance of “Your event was a total afterthought to me” that I wouldn’t have felt any need to feed her. She didn’t actually come to the event, after all.

    I used to wait for people but I finally stopped after I missed too many movies, shuttle buses, etc.

  • DGS May 17, 2011, 9:29 am

    I agree that some tardy arrivals are very selfish, while others are disorganized or have very poor time management (and hopefully, after being sufficiently embarassed at being tardy to events will learn to manage their time or organize their surroundings better). However, there is a third category of tardy folks – the clueless. My BIL is a sweet, wonderful, gracious man, and DH and I love him dearly and are fond of his wife, who is also very sweet and equally clueless. We have learned to invite them to events an hour before they are scheduled so that they arrive on time – they are very gracious people and quite mannerly and prompt with thank-you notes, RSVP’s and otherwise tactful behavior, but my BIL tends to lose track of time and has no sense of direction. Even though he has a GPS, and even though he and his wife have frequently been to our house, they still get lost driving to us, and they tend to get side-tracked by things (e.g. passing by a farmstand on the highway and U-turning to pick up some strawberries and asparagus while en route to our house, which makes for a lovely and thoughtful hostess gift, but is not terribly convenient when they arrive over an hour after everyone else has arrived and been served dinner). My DH insists that his brother was always like this, so rather than trying to change their behavior (they are adults, after all), we have simply resorted to telling them that a function starts an hour before it actually does, and then, they usually get there right on time, or even a few minutes early.

    However, I do think that it is equally rude to invite someone for a certain time and not be ready to receive them as to be invited somewhere and be late. My SMIL is notorious for this – she will invite everyone to a big holiday gathering for 7 pm, but the dinner isn’t close to being ready until 8:30 pm (including breaking the fast for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when everyone has been fasting since the night before and is starving by the time dinner is supposed to begin). She does not currently have health issues that would make it exceptionally difficult for her to put together a large family gathering; in her case, it seems to be poor planning. My DH and I have learned to have a snack before we drive to dinner at their house (we live over 2 hours away) and be prepared to roll up our sleeves and help in the kitchen, so that dinner is on the table before 9 pm. Another friend had recently invited us for dinner at 7, but by the time that dinner was ready to be served, it was almost 10 pm. We enjoyed visiting with them, and I helped the hostess get dinner on the table, but we were quite hungry by the time dinner was finally served and still had an hour-long drive back home ahead of us. This was also the case of poor planning on their part, although the hosts did not seem particularly upset about dinner being so tardy. It is important to have good organization and time management skills to be able to successfully entertain people.

  • many bells down May 17, 2011, 9:39 am

    Ah, memories of my ex-husband. To be fair, America is a monochronic culture, which makes perpetual tardiness rude and selfish. Other cultures DON’T view time this way, and being late isn’t such a problem for them. My ex was from Mexico, which is a culture with a slightly more relaxed view of time. In his eyes, if he had to be somewhere at 5, and he *left the house at 5*, he was “on time” no matter how long it was going to take to get there. It drove me nuts because I’m incredibly punctual. I tried lying about the time things started, even by so much as an HOUR. It never worked – he’d still be late for the event’s real time.
    So while I certainly agree such behavior is frustrating, and can definitely be rude and selfish, we should remember that it’s partly our cultural bias at work. There are many other places around the world where “tardiness” doesn’t really exist, because culturally things like “start times” aren’t really important.

  • Stephanie May 17, 2011, 9:55 am

    Amen, Jeanne, and your explanation is exactly on target! I’m famously punctual, even early (family habit that was drilled into me), and I loathe it when people are late for just that reason–because they couldn’t be bothered. (Of course, I’ll be kinder when the lateness is due to factors beyond their control, like a transit issue or snarl on the freeway.) Things are even worse now that we’re in the age of the cell phone. Now, I don’t wait more than 20 minutes without leaving/going ahead and ordering and I always keep a spare set of plans so that I’m not a hostage to other people’s rudeness and lack of caring.

  • Ellie May 17, 2011, 9:59 am

    @anonymous, post #5, That’s all well and good for you guys, it’s your choice to deal with your chronically late friend however you wish. But there is a flip side to the idea of just having another glass of wine while waiting for him, since you’re not really being put out. During college, I was one of the prompt and on-time people in my group of friend’s, and was usually the first to arrive at restaurants. But, since this was a big college town, all the establishments refused to seat the group until everyone was actually present. They didn’t want to waste space by having empty chairs at tables, not when there’s definitely going to be another group to fill that spot. So waiting for someone who is always late sucks, as you stand next to the hostess booth, watching others get to sit down.

    I have also been in the position where everyone is going to meet up someplace (movies, restaurant, bar, etc) and I’m the only one who shows up at the proper time. I’m left waiting either in my car or loitering in front of the building, resisting the urge to call and text and find out where everyone is! I embarrass easily, and those situations always make me feel very awkward.

    And I would be fine if we had all just agreed to push back the time we were meeting, because then I could spend more time getting ready! I can always adjust my makeup or change my clothes some more, but I won’t make people wait on me.

  • r0x May 17, 2011, 9:59 am

    I feel sorry for all those people in client-facing jobs who have to encounter lateness daily without the freedom to respond as one would in a social situation.

  • peony May 17, 2011, 10:07 am

    I teach leadership courses for newly elected leaders for a volunteer association. The very first thing we teach is to start meetings on time. Reward those who are on time, not those who are late. For an individual, chronic lateness is a bad, but for a group, it can mean loss of respect for the whole association. Start those meetings on time and stick to the agenda!

  • livvy May 17, 2011, 10:08 am

    Amen! Congrats to Elf for making the effort to improve. I can’t stand people who make talk about their disorganization and disinterest as if it were a valid excuse to be late.

  • Susanna May 17, 2011, 10:11 am

    The editorial after the story hits me particularly hard. I am one of those people who has trouble being on time, and just this morning got my son to school on a day when he said he needed to be on time.

    It’s not like I didn’t try. I woke up half an hour early, made his lunch last night. I was determined not to be late this morning. And we were doing fine, until somehow 8:00 became 8:30 as we were all getting dressed (which I swear couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes), and 8:30 became 8:55 as I was trying to get the boys out the door. Where did those 25 minutes go? I have no idea.

    I guess I’ll just have to try harder tomorrow.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 10:35 am

    Some people are clueless and just need to be called out.

  • Jojo May 17, 2011, 10:36 am

    It’s all to easy to be late but when it’s an event of meaning, like a wedding, it’s unacceptable.
    My ex-husband had a gift for running late and making me late in the process which drove me utterly bananas.
    The worst occasion was his grandmother’s funeral, just a week after our wedding. We were expected to walk behind her coffin to the chapel and then sit in the front row for the service.
    I travelled with my family and his brother ( who had just arrived from overseas and didn’t know his side of the family at all).
    We arrived 20 minutes or so before the funeral. My husband, his daughter and father ( son of the deceased) were nowhere to be seen at our designated meeting point ( agreed as they were coming from a different direction).
    We look around for Uncle J, Granny’s other son, who we also cannot find and who I do not have a phone number for. As time ticks on and panic escalates, my family, my brother in law and I go to the chapel and wait there. No answer by phone from husband or his dad upon repeated calls.
    Over the horizon we see the hearse with Uncle J and his family walking behind. We cut our losses and do our best to rescue the situation by politely greeting everyone and taking our places.
    No sign of my husband, step-daughter or father-in-law. Uncle J and I stare helplessly at each other from our respective sides of the front pew of the chapel, shrugging and trying to mime some sort of plan to delay the service until they arrive. Everyone in the congregation is seated and the minister takes his place. Still no answer by phone from husband or any indication of where the group are. Finally, as the minister is starting the service the party arrive shuffling to their seats at the front of the room. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.

  • Ashley May 17, 2011, 10:37 am

    The fact that she heckled the caterers into giving her food only adds to the selfishness of this woman. Now the caterers are behind schedule as well because of this woman’s lateness. Being late really is selfish. Now if only I could get that point across to my fiance…

  • Pam B May 17, 2011, 10:39 am

    There is actually a learning disability called “dyscalculia” where that internal clock just doesn’t work, and yes, those little tricks are necessary in order to be on time! I completely agree with the poster who talked about the attitude of the late person. I would never hold a meal for a late comer and I would never expect one to be held for me if I were to be late. How could it be polite to make 10 people wait for their dinner to accomodate 2 late ones? And what kind of ego says “everyone wait for me?” Yikes – the polite thing to do if you’re going to arrive late is to call and say “please start without us!!”

  • nannerdoman May 17, 2011, 10:47 am

    The part of this story that put it over the top for me was the late guest’s cadging a meal–and then additional meals for the no-shows! Besides being really insulting to the happy couple, she inconvenienced the caterers, who were undoubtedly tired and ready to go home.

  • Another Laura May 17, 2011, 10:58 am

    When my sister-in-law’s step-daughter got married, the MOB didn’t show up at the wedding. People got worried and called her, turns out she was *shopping for her dress to wear to the wedding* in a city in the NEXT STATE! I understand that this sort of behavior is rather typical of this woman.

    My parents have a reputation of being always late, part of it is due to poor time management, part of it to owning a farm that seems to be run by Murphy’s Law, things always go wrong when there is an event to attend.

  • The Elf May 17, 2011, 11:24 am


    What I meant is that some people can’t help the problems that lead them to being late. Once you recognize the problem, now it’s a matter of finding the right solution, and of course the same things don’t work for everyone, and once you find something now you have to make it habit, so…… The point I’m getting at is that there’s I’m-honestly-trying-but-failing-late and then there’s selfish late. Intent means a lot to me.

  • Clever.name May 17, 2011, 11:27 am

    My husband is one of those chronically-late selfish people who will play on the computer until 5 minutes before it’s time to leave, *then* jump in the shower. As a result we are pretty much always late due to him (I prefer to be on-time).

    What was suggested to me as a way to deal with him, and I have actually started doing it, is to leave without him. It sounds mean, but no amount of pleading, begging or lying about the start-time of the event was making any difference. Once he saw that life goes on without him, and he may be left to take a cab to the event as I had already taken the car, he is slowly starting to get better.

    I did this on the day of his sister’s wedding rehearsal because I refused to be late. He was still ironing his shirt at the designated departure time. I packed up the rest of the people coming with us, and took the car. He was left to get there on his own. He was mad, but he has to understand that other people’s scheduled events will not stand still until he arrives.

  • Shiksagoddess May 17, 2011, 11:30 am

    My husband used to have a terrible time-management problem. He showed up late to everything, with every excuse under the sun.

    Then he married me.

    Problem solved.

  • lnelson1218 May 17, 2011, 11:53 am

    I do know a few people who have their own schedules in the world. Late, early, or simply no regards to your schedule. Constantly late with no word is just plain rude.

    The other thing that drive me nuts and I do have an aunt who has done this, we plan on meeting somewhere, arrange a time to meet and if she gets there early, she just starts and goes ahead without waiting for me. And I am not late. If we are meeting for dinner at 5:30, you get there at 5, please wait for me and don’t start so when I finally arrive at 5:30 I can a) find you b) you don’t have to wait for me to order and eat my food because you have already finished.

  • Kathryn Dickinson May 17, 2011, 1:01 pm

    There is late 5 or ten minutes , than there is really late 30 minutes plus. My experience with tardiness is the late party is passive aggressive. The excuse{reason} is always lame, did not have time to wrap the presents, had to wash my hair, only worked out 20 minutes instead 40 so I am really on time, I was on the phone etc etc etc… . I think the difference between the selfish passive aggressive and the truly did not want to be late person is the apology, followed by cowering in the corner helping clean up.
    The passive aggressive demands attention and sees no reason to apologize or if they do does in my gym was crowded sorry. The truly late in traffic person can not stop apologizing and will give comfort instead of wishing to be comforted.
    We talk of giving the chronically late consequences as if that will change their behavior, in my experience that does not work as in the tell them to come an hour earlier time does not work.
    If someone is always late and upsetting your cookie cart its simple, do not invite them. If they are family and you feel you have to invite them, do not invite them anyway.
    It will cause drama either way, yet with the latter you will not be forced to endure their company, and the hard feelings will be theirs.

  • Chocobo May 17, 2011, 1:19 pm

    Tardiness is pretty obvious, but I’d also like to see an article on perpetually early people, they also drive me batty. It doesn’t bother me when people are early or late by a few minutes, but more than 10~15 minutes in either direction without a valid reason is equally rude.

    If a guest arrives 30 minutes or an hour early than the scheduled time, I may not be prepared to receive them, the hors d’oeuvres aren’t out, the table isn’t yet set, I may not even have had time to change into my outfit yet. Now all of a sudden I have to entertain people while simultaneously trying to stay on schedule during time I had planned on being alone and having the freedom to do what needed to be done. And saying “oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here” doesn’t make the fact that they are pressuring me into hosting them unprepared any better. The presence of the guest puts undue pressure on a host to accommodate and entertain them. Personally I feel it is also (and equally) selfish to make the host accommodate you because you couldn’t be bothered to wait until later, drive around the block a few times, or have an ironic need to overcompensate for time in order to be “polite” and never be late.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 1:28 pm

    I grew up with an habitually late family member. At a very young age, I was repeatedly left unattended because I was not picked up on time. As I grew older, I felt unimportant. While I realize this person had issues with prioritization and judgement, it didn’t change the outcome: people are inconvenienced and accommodation is demanded/expected. One day I stopped accommodating, in a number of ways, and the relationship suffered – so be it.

    And no Elf, you and others like you can ‘help it,’ as you’ve learned. The tardy person needs to make the accommodations and not everyone else in the world (it can’t be the world so it must be you, or so the saying says).

    And no KMC, being early is NEVER acceptable. The ‘compromise’ you’ve struck with your husband is no better than constantly arriving late (despite what you want to tell yourself). Arriving early inconveniences others, and controls their time …. just like arriving late. Why not do what you’re invited to do and arrive at the desginated time??

  • Xtina May 17, 2011, 1:36 pm

    No excuse for Kay missing that wedding because she “lost track of the time”. As The Elf has demonstrated, if you acknowledge that you have the problem, there are ways to fix it. That was horrible, horrible, horrible for Kay to extort food from the caterers not only for herself but for people who didn’t even bother to show up in tow WITH her–and she apparently thought nothing was wrong with that scenario! Everyone else seemed gracious and forgiving and maybe all was well in this story since the couple likely had plenty of leftovers to share, but still–it’s the principle of it.

    Don’t feed the animals or they’ll learn to expect it.

  • Robert May 17, 2011, 1:57 pm

    So I had started dating a girl who lived in South Boston and I was about two hours north of her. On our first Valentines Day she had suggested a nice restaurant in Cambridge. The directions I downloaded said it would take about an hour and I am horrible at driving in the city (plus there was no way I was going to be late for this!) so I left THREE HOURS before the reservation time.

    The directions included a close up map that clearly showed the restaurant on the East side of the Charles River. Every time I crossed a bridge to the West side I figured I had made a wrong turn and would turn around to get back onto the East side.

    After almost two hours of driving around getting increasingly lost I gave up. I pulled into a parking garage and walked to a supermarket next to the garage. I spoke to the store manager who told me where and how to catch a bus to the restaurant. He also let me use the store phone to call the restaurant which put my date on and I explained that I was going to be about a half hour late (it was ten past the time by then) but I was on my way.

    Over dinner I explained what happened and she wound up driving me to the parking garage to get my car after dinner. When I got home I looked on a map and while the close up picture showed the restaurant on the East side of the river there was actually a double loop in the river and the larger picture showed the place was actually on the West side (I had been within a mile of the place several times when I turned around after crossing the river).

    Anyway, that was years ago and when my wife and I talk about our first Valentines Day we both laugh about it.

  • Kitty Lizard May 17, 2011, 2:19 pm

    After 5 years of missing the first 15 minutes of every movie, first act of every play, I simply left without my husband. He finally got the message. It is RUDE and SELFISH.

  • Just Laura May 17, 2011, 2:51 pm

    Pam B,
    Dyscalculia has nothing to do with an internal clock. It has to do with the inability to (or inordinate difficulty with) solving math problems.

    Being habitually late isn’t a “disorder.” It is rude, and the times I’ve been late I have known it was my own fault. Yes, due to injury some people might be more forgetful than others. However, just as a hard-of-hearing person overcomes that issue with a hearing aid, or a person with myopia overcomes it with glasses/contacts, a person who has trouble keeping track of time/events overcomes it with alarms or Post-it notes.

  • Mary May 17, 2011, 2:54 pm

    My Aunt, Uncle and their children are ALWAYS late to family functions, and we never wait anything for them. Do they notice? Nope. My aunt is the cause- she probably has dyscalcula or whatever the disorder is, and I’d feel bad for her, but she has very few things on her schedule and has never made an effort to be on time. Everyone just assumes they’ll be late, and they always are. They make fun of everyone else for their punctuality, especially my parents.

    I understand losing track of time and losing 5 minutes or so, but after waiting around fifteen minutes I irritated, after twenty I am livid. If you come in with a legitimate excuse or call, fine. But “I have a hard time keeping track” blah blah blah I don’t want to hear it. I will be polite to you, act as though everything is fine, abut quite probably be simmering underneath. If it’s a fluke, it’s fine, but habitual lateness makes me lose respect and not want to meet up with you.

    If a friendship is worth it, then of course lateness will not ruin it and I don’t mean to make it sound as if it could. But business relationships, acquaintances, casual friendships, and others will not outlast perpetual tardiness and poor excuses. Regardless of how badly you may feel after the fact, the damage is done when you show up late without calling or a legitimate excuse (and I lost track of time is not an excuse).

    The best thing I learned from my high school math teacher was: To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to have missed something. Now, he didn’t mean be a half an hour early, but if the bell rang at 1:05 you’d better have your butt in the chair at 1:00 so your books and such would be out so you’r be ready to go. Strolling in at 1 meant you had to scramble to your seat and get your books, and even five minutes late meant you had missed something.

  • jen a. May 17, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Thank you for this post!!! Everyone is late once and awhile, but chronically late people drive me absolutely bonkers. I used to carpool with someone like that. I had to pick him at his place, and he would always be rushing around inside, trying to get ready. I warned him that I was going to start leaving after a 10 minute grace period. It only took him being without a drive once before he found the ability to be ready on time.

  • WrenskiBaby May 17, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I am virtually always on time. This past winter was brutal and there were a couple of days I knew I was going to be a few minutes late getting to work. By this I mean five or ten minutes. My boss is sometimes rushing out the door when I arrive so on my late days I phoned from my car to tell him I was going to be a bit late in case he needed to give me last-minute orders. So what happens when I arrive? He’s not there. Soon he arrives and listens to the phone messages and I tell him he can skip my message. He sarcastically says, “Oh, are you calling to tell me you’ll be two minutes late?” Punctuality isn’t valued by some people.

  • --Lia May 17, 2011, 3:36 pm

    The OP tells us what happened at the wedding. I’m interested in what happened years after. If I were the author of this story, here’s how it would finish.

    Linda and Mark never mentioned Kay’s bad manners either at the wedding or in the time following. If they said anything about her being late, about her jeans, about the conspicuous absence of her husband and son, or about demanding that the caterer’s feed her, they did so privately to each other. They did, however, never invite her anywhere else for the rest of their lives. The families were close, and they often got together with other family members, but not her. If it ever became apparent that Kay was left out, they murmured something about knowing how busy she is and not wanting to burden her with an invitation when she has so many important things to do. Instead, they surrounded themselves with people who treasure them and are happy to spend time with them.

    For Kay’s part, she was invited fewer and fewer places until she scarcely had a social life at all. Sometimes she invited people out, but no one ever accepted her invitations because they found it too irritating to wonder if she was going to show up. At times, Kay would go to considerable trouble to entertain, but she only ever got freeloaders who wanted the food, not her company. Kay became lonely and never figured out that her behavior had something to do with it.

    At least, that’s how I’d end the story.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 3:52 pm

    I am with Chocobo – early is just as rude as late and the intent of the early or late person doesn’t matter one bit. Passive aggression is frequently at play with these narcissists and for others, it is just a casual lack of respect. The late person is surprised when the world (and family and friends) simply move on without him/her.

    But what to do about the early person? This level of passive aggression leaves me stumped.

  • LilyG May 17, 2011, 4:02 pm

    Our family is chronically late by about 30 min for everything. We are chronically late for work by a few minutes even… So, we have a wedding to attend the 21st. It’s at 4pm in a city 90 miles away. I reserved the ENTIRE day and the night before to get ready- all packed the night before and loaded in the car, including presents. We are up at 8, breakfast over by 9, everyone starts showers and hairdressing by 9:30. Then final inspection of clothes at 11:30, towels pinned over dresses and suits and and a non-staining lunch eaten at noon. Dog walked by 12:30 and half an hour for last minute details. At 1pm, we get in the car, with directions to the venue printed out and highlighted. It should only take an hour and a half, but there is always construction, so I think we can arrive by 3:30 at the latest. Then enter the church and cool our heels for 1/2 an hour.

    Voila! On time.
    THAT is why I’m late for everything-I can’t summon up that much energy every single time I have to be somewhere. I don’t understand the people who are always punctual-do they spend this much time going places? Do they leave for work with half an hour cushion every single day? I’m not trying to excuse myself, I really want to know. I’d almost rather not go to things if I have to spend more time getting ready and waiting for things to start than I do for the event.

  • LilyG May 17, 2011, 4:03 pm

    Oh snap! I forgot to allow for dropping the dog off at my brother’s on the way-I better move everything up by 45 min…

  • ashley May 17, 2011, 4:07 pm

    Lateness is one of my pet peeves too. Reminds me of when I used to go to church all of the time and I would sort of carpool with this other family I knew very well, they were some of the kindest people one would ever meet but they had a horrible habit of making me late for church due to their obsession with their hair/makeup and such >.< Used to drive me nuts xD Still love them to death though 🙂

    And does anyone else get annoyed at the term “fashionably late”? I don’t get how that ever was or could have ever been a fashion xD

  • SV May 17, 2011, 4:37 pm

    I work in an emergency animal hospital that is only open nights and weekends. Clients are required to pick up their pets and transport them to their regular animal hospital by 730 am – we close at 8 am, and have no staff throughout the day ( and therefore no animals are kept in the building. ) Everyone who works with me works very busy 12 hour overnight shifts, and by the time 8 am arrives we are all exhausted and ready to go home to bed. Every client is informed verbally of our pick up time every time we speak to them ( which can be several times throughout the night) as well as being given instructions in written form and advised that if they cannot come by 730 am we can arrange pet taxi transport for them. There are large signs in every room in the hospital stating the pick up time and before clients leave, when I give them papers with the pick up instructions in written form , I always write in their presence, “PICK UP TIME BETWEEN SEVEN AND SEVEN THIRTY AM.” And yet, even with all of this, an astonishing number of people simply do not come on time. This requires the entire staff of the hospital to wait for them. Sometimes it is due to situations beyond their control, and those people are always very apologetic. Of course I have no issue with that- sometimes we cannot help our circumstances. More often, though, it is simply poor planning and a complete disregard of others personal time. There are always people in the world like that- those who feel that whatever is going on with them has to be more important than what is going on with you. I often wonder…how would those same people feel if they had just worked a busy 12 hour dayshift, and were required to wait for me an hour after they were supposed to be able to leave? Perhaps that might lend a little perspective to the matter 🙂 But of course, as a polite person I would never do such a thing!

  • Melly May 17, 2011, 5:00 pm

    It’s interesting what many bells down pointed out. I’ve lived in countries where the etiquette is wildly opposite. I was given a few etiquette books by a teacher in one of the countries and they stated that being on time was very rude! Other cultures it might say the shop will reopen at 4 pm after the break, but in reality it’s 4:40 pm. Of course it’s rude in North American culture, but it was a serious culture shock to be considered rude for being on time!

  • JediKaiti May 17, 2011, 5:24 pm

    I was once invited to a wedding about an hour away from where I lived, and figured I’d allow an hour and a half to get there, just in case of traffic. Alas, there wasn’t just traffic on the way – the 4-lane highway was down to 1 in some parts, and what would not normally have been much traffic at all became a giant bottleneck in shut-off-your-engine-it’s-going-to-be-a-while traffic. At least 1 other guest & I missed the wedding entirely, but made the reception, and another coming from the same area got to the church in time to see exit processional. Alas, it was also in the days before everyone and their dog was glued to their cell phones, but I apologized profusely to the bride and explained the delay, and she was very understanding.

  • Nashvillegirl May 17, 2011, 5:31 pm

    One of my close friends is always late. We all get a good laugh at it, especially when she calls sharing her tales of lateness on the way over. The last time I met her for brunch, she was over an hour late, I had waited until my blood sugar started dropping and went ahead, ordered and ate. When she got there and I told her what had happened, she apologized. Normally if we are just meeting for coffee or she is coming over for dinner I don’t mind since I have made adjustments to my timing but her husband has gotten her to realize that being late all the time is not right. Of course she just added a baby to the mix, so this should be interesting when she goes back to work! I do have to commend her for getting better with time since she started working at a school. Having a classroom full of kids has made her work really hard on getting to wherever she needs to be early.

    I used to be late for work and then I realized that if I left my place 15 minutes before I normally did actually got me ahead of the heaviest traffic; now I am a freak about missing traffic and getting somewhere early.

  • Margaret May 17, 2011, 5:36 pm

    I’m always late, so I deserved this. On my wedding day, we showed up at the church on time. Someone told me that my mother in law to be hadn’t arrived yet. So we waited. And waited. And waited. For whatever reason, instead of driving down with FIL, she had driven with one of her children. I think that perhaps they had wanted her to go with them because they didn’t know where the church was (the address was on the invitation, directions were included in the invitation, and it is a town of 1400 — in less than half an hour, you could drive every single street in town to look for it). They were over half an hour late — probably closer to an hour (I didn’t have a watch on). So my bridesmaids and I waited outside the church where there were wasps (lots of fun while holding bouquets), and my poor, poor guests waited inside a very warm church on a hot day. When MIL ett al finally did arrive, the parking lot was full. Instead of driving to the door to drop MIL off, they parked down the street about 100 metres away (=100 yards). Not only was that an extra few minutes of waiting, my MIL has terrible knees, so it was a difficult walk for her anyway! Poor MIL felt awful. But the kicker to me is that the priest told all the guests that they were waiting for the bride!

  • JediKaiti May 17, 2011, 5:43 pm

    @Susanna – I know EXACTLY what you mean. I start getting ready for something well before I have to leave, and time just walks away like Adipose in that episode of Doctor Who. Outfit selected in advance, just need to get it on, put on a little makeup, and pull up my hair. No sweat, right? I get started, look at the clock 10 minutes later and somehow 35 minutes have actually passed. Where’d the other 25 go?

  • Andi May 17, 2011, 5:53 pm

    My husband is chronically early. You’d think that’d be okay, except it sucks showing up to the theatre a half-hour before the movie starts because he always figures there’s going to be a massive traffic accident on the way there. I explained to him that showing up that early to parties is just as rude as showing up super late, so I think he’s working on that, but he just gets anxious. No matter what the estimate is on travel time, he’s just certain that traffic is going to be the worst it’s ever been.

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