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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 }
  • Athena Carson May 17, 2011, 6:35 pm

    “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.”

    Lol! Technically you are right, of course. I laugh because I work in a profession where lateness simply happens as a matter of course. You are just about to walk out of your cube to go to a meeting when a high-priority client calls with a fire to put out. You are on track to submit a project for review when a bomb goes off and you spend an extra week cleaning up the shrapnel (figuratively speaking, of course). This happens at every level, from the junior staff, to the senior partners, to the clients.

    But it’s not really a problem, per se. We all do our best to be prompt, we handle late individuals with grace and a bit of patience (usually giving them a 5-minute grace period before starting without them, fully aware that it could be our turn to be late next time), and the offender never fails to offer a sincere apology. We give each other the benefit of the doubt, because we know how it works.

  • karma May 17, 2011, 6:39 pm

    Even though I am very punctual, I do not agree that lateness “implies that your time is more important my time”. That is a cute saying and easily rolls off the tongue sounding like wisdom, but I don’t buy it. Really, I think that is giving those folks too much credit: as if they had enough sense to value time.

    I think the majority of people who run late are just poor time managers. I also think there is a certain type of person who IS passive-aggressive, using time as a way to control the situation.

  • Kimberly May 17, 2011, 7:20 pm

    I have problem with no interior clock. Back before cell phones my Mimmi taught me to use a timer to help keep me on time. Now when I have to be somewhere I

    1. Check google maps and my GPS system several days at about the time I think I should leave to see if I have the timing right to give myself a reasonable cushion of time for Houston traffic.

    2. I plan what I will need to get down backwards from the time I need to leave and set a series of alarms on my phone for each step.

    Still there are two types of on time people gracious and petty.

    Gracious – My sister wanted me to drive with her family to my nieces’ recital. The orginal time was easy, but then she moved it back 30 minutes. I told her maybe I should drive myself because that might be cutting it close. She said it would be fine. Well there were two wrecks that day on my way home. I couldn’t divert and go straight to her place because 1 – clothing was not appropriate 2 – My dogs needed to be let out. I got home and had 10 minutes to make the 30 minute drive to her house. I called her – and she said it was fine. I was lucky and traffic was unusually light and no bozo decided to use the ez tag lane to cut in front of the rest of the pay lane customers. (Drive up to where the physical barrier starts, stop blocking ez tag lane and wait for someone to let them into the pay lane). Sis was gracious, I apologized, and we made it to the recital on time.

    Petty – Girl at University. Her definition of on time was to be 15 minutes early and visible to her. I nearly failed a course for “not showing up on time for group meetings”. I was “late” 2 times.

    Time 1 – I had almost back to back meeting/study groups in the library. I finished the one before the one with Petty girl early. I took my things to our booked room about 20 minutes early. Then went to get the items that were on reserve for us. I arrived back at our meeting room, arms full of books we needed on the dot on time. Petty girl reported me as late because according to her watch I was 5 minutes late- except she bragged about setting her watch 5 minutes ahead.

    Time 2 – My Mom called as I was walking out, 15 minutes early, to tell me a relative had died. According to the clock on the wall of the library I was less than 1 minute late – but she moved the meeting and told the librarian not to tell me were it was, but to tell other late members of the group where they were.

    Thankfully I was able to appeal the grade and several of the other students backed me up. The professor in charge of our sub group was going to fail me, but other professors teaching the class overruled her. I never trusted petty girl or that professor again.

  • Just trying May 17, 2011, 7:21 pm

    to LilyG,

    “I don’t understand the people who are always punctual-do they spend this much time going places?”

    Yes. It’s called being organized.

  • Calliope May 17, 2011, 8:07 pm

    LilyG, I do give myself a time cushion every time I need to be somewhere at a specific time. It only takes me about half an hour to get ready for work, but I get up an hour before I need to leave. Most mornings, I get to spend the extra thirty minutes having a nice breakfast and reading. And on those mornings where everything’s going wrong and time is just slipping away, I have that cushion to keep me from being late. It works for me, but then again, I don’t have children or dogs to wrangle!

  • Ista May 17, 2011, 9:12 pm

    When my husband and I got married, he insisted we wait for his elderly grandmother to arrive. I allowed it to keep the peace. However, a year later, his cousin got married and we waited for her to arrive…until the bride said “Her invitation had the same time on it as everyone elses!” and got it started. Grandma and her group showed up after the procession and most of the vows. She was pissed, and so was my husband (“They couldn’t wait for the Matriarch!”) but…it turned out she and her group hadn’t even left her house until 5 after the appointed time!!It wasn’t her day, she wasn’t in charge of it, and since then everyone else has started to wake up and cut down on her influence on their life events.

  • Angeldrac May 17, 2011, 9:24 pm

    OP says Kay gave no reason for her lateness, but later says the continued with “excuses” – which one is it? I do wonder what her actual reason was, it seems weird that a person could be so late, underdressed and unaccompanied without some sort of valid reason.
    As for tardiness being ‘selfish’, while do agree in many situations, I don’t think this is universal. My good friend “L” is the opposite of selfish, she would be mortified at offending anyone, is as selfless and giving person as any but she is perpetually disorganized. She just cannot get her act together to get somewhere on time (I think her mother has Asperger’s syndrome, so L has never had the chance to learn some certain skills, and as an adult it’s almost to late now). She tries so hard to be timely, and we have simply had to learn to move around her.

  • majuba May 17, 2011, 10:18 pm

    My father was a great one for being late to events. The worst time I remember was when I was about 8years old. My father was a Veterinarian working with the State’s department of agriculture. He’d been invited to a conference in the capital city. We lived in a small country town about 5 hours away. Mum decided that we (her, my younger brother and I) would accompany him to the city and visit the Zoo while he was at the meeting. He dropped us out the front of the Zoo and promised to be back at a certain time, late afternoon. We had a great day and were waiting out front of the Zoo, tired from all that walking….no Dad. The Zoo had closed for the day, it was early evening and getting cold and dark and we were alone in a strange city with no idea where he was (pre-mobile phone days). We were only dressed for a warm autumn day and had no jackets or sweaters so we were freezing. We were also starving since there was no eateries in sight and we didn’t know where any were located. Poor mum was stuck pacing the pavement with two young, grumpy kids and totally freaking out.
    Dad finally showed up nearly THREE HOURS after promising to collect us. He’d had a busy session of shmoozing with the other people at the after-conference nibbles/drinks and had forgotten the time.Mum was FURIOUS, they had a hell of a row in the car on the way home. Us kids crashed as soon as we got into the warm car.

  • Jillybean May 17, 2011, 10:23 pm

    I find the chronically early way more annoying than the chronically late. If someone is late by more than a few minutes in my circle, I usually get a call from them. And, while it won’t always be possible to hold for their arrival, I would certainly try to accommodate them if the lateness was through no fault of their own. But obviously the woman in this story is beyond rude.

  • Mike Johnson May 17, 2011, 11:23 pm

    I have seen a variety of reasons listed here for reasons that someone can be late but the reality is if you are over the age of about 12 you should have been able to figure out what your particular issue is and taken it into account. Chronically disorganized, Aspergers, time just gets away from you, if you are a reasoning person you know these things are in play and you make provisions for them. Bottom line unless there is some totally un-preventable event (wreck on the road, etc) then there is no real excuse for being late and all of the excuses that I have seen above are just that, excuses. Let’s all just be adults and admit that we have a problem and quit trying to find excuses for what is bottom line our own failures. Alarm clocks have been around for several hundred years, maps for even longer so let’s not try to use the lack of GPS or cell phones be a crutch for our own failures. If I sound harsh it is because I have had too many important occasions, including funerals, be delayed because someone just couldn’t get it together and always had the same excuse of “well you know how I am”.

  • peony May 17, 2011, 11:36 pm

    @ Susanna — Please consider setting extra alarms and timers so you can get your child to school on time. Do you realize what you are doing to your child with your habitual tardiness? The stress under which you are putting him/her? To walk in late day after day while everyone is watching and the teacher is commenting? The amount of instructional time you are making the child miss?
    You don’t have to look perfect to drop a child off at school and breakfast can be eaten in the car.
    Stop this heartless, border-line abusive behavior!

  • Aje May 18, 2011, 6:52 am

    My family was once invited to a very small wedding of only about 15 people. At 2pm I asked my mom for the invitation, because I was sure it started at 4pm. She assured me it started at 4:30, without consulting the invitation… but I assumed she’d know. At 4pm we got a call from the church saying the party was waiting for us. I was SO embarrassed… an entire wedding halted for our family…

  • Anonymous May 18, 2011, 7:02 am

    I agree that being late is rude, and Kay was BEYOND rude for RSVP’ing “yes,” showing up at the END of the wedding wearing jeans, expecting to be fed (from food that was already being packed up/already put away), AND expecting take-away for her husband and son, who’d also RSVP’ed “yes,” but hadn’t come.

    My dad was another “chronically late” person, growing up–I hated being driven ANYWHERE by him, because it often resulted in being late for school (when I was younger and he’d drive me and my brother), or for volunteering/swimming/music lessons when I got older. The problem with that was, my dad was the one doing the driving, but I was the one who had to deal with the consequences.

    So, when my dad couldn’t get out the door on time, I was the one who’d get a detention at school, or miss something in swimming, or disappoint some poor kids at the YMCA, or get chewed out by my clarinet teacher or my guitar teacher (or at the very least, we’d have a rushed and non-productive lesson), or be forced to sit outside the school in the dark and the cold after band practice, if I couldn’t get a ride with one of my friends. This was also before cell phones, at least for me–my first cell phone was a 20th birthday gift. I would have called from home, but my dad would always fervently claim that he was “on his way,” so it kind of seemed redundant–I should have called anyway after the first few times, but I was just a kid, and I kept *believing* my dad, long after I should have given up.

    Anyway, like I said, there were never any consequences for my dad for making other people late when he was doing the driving, but apparently, he wasn’t being deliberately rude, he was just disorganized. According to my mom, he often ran late when they were going to a movie/concert/play/whatever (which he usually enjoyed going to as much as my mom, so he wasn’t dragging his heels). This meant they had to sneak guiltily into a LOT of different venues, which is rude to the audience, and the performers–let me tell you, it’s DISTRACTING to be up on the stage playing, and hear someone “slip in” late. The late spectator may miss a few minutes of the music, but to the performer, it might mean the difference between nailing that killer cadenza, and screwing it up completely–again, misplaced consequences, but people don’t realize that. Also, my dad is a partner at his office, so to him, “the work day starts when I get there,” so I guess he’s just not used to being on time.

    As for “chronically early” people, yeah, that’s rude too, but I think it’s a bit LESS rude, because “chronically late” says, “I don’t care enough about you to make time for the event you invited me to,” but a chronically early person is at least making the effort to be there. Sure, it causes problems if the host is still getting ready, but their intentions are good–and, bonus points if the chronically early person volunteers to help set up. As for the poster who said that her husband is one of those people, and they’ve compromised on being five minutes early…….that seems fair. Her husband seems like a considerate person who never wants to be late for anything, he’s just a little overzealous about punctuality. I’d take that over the person who shows up an hour late and ruins the dinner party/movie plans/whatever.

  • kingshearte May 18, 2011, 7:19 am

    I agree with Mike Johnson. Some people’s chronic lateness is sheer selfishness, but even the disorganized people are not blameless. Frankly, if you’ve acknowledged that you have this problem, then fix it. It might take some time to find the particular solution that works for you, but if you don’t even try, or give up because someone’s idea didn’t work? I feel that’s just as selfish as any other chronically late person.

  • Xtina May 18, 2011, 7:48 am

    @LilyG–how do on time people do it every time? For me, it’s very simple. Whatever the start time of the event is, I think of it as 15 minutes earlier, and it becomes emblazoned on my brain. Therefore I plan my preparation and leave times 15 minutes earlier and always leave my house on time, plus I have a little cushion in case of something unforseen coming up.

    Maybe everyone can’t do this, but it only takes me a couple of thoughts mentally to commit my brain to “X’s party starts at 6:45 PM” instead of 7 PM and act as though that’s the case. And if I arrive a few minutes earlier than I need to go in (such as the aforementioned case of going to one’s home where they might not be quite ready to host me), I will just sit in my car and read or listen to the radio a safe distance away until it’s time to go in. That’s always worked for me.

  • Izzy May 18, 2011, 8:16 am

    I was going to start off by commenting “You think having a tardy friend drives you insane? Try dating one!” then saw the comments of people who married tardy people. I’ve been 1up’d!
    Probably a cultural thing but I don’t get the rage at the people arriving early – within my circle of friends that’s the polite thing to do, arrive early and volunteer to help out. If host is stressed, “Oh I’ll go set the table” or “I’ll go chill the drinks”. If the host has everything under control, means we can catch up and chat, no biggie. If I get somewhere early I understand if host needs to concentrate on cooking and can’t talk, I’ll just find something else to do to make myself useful. Also because before I was a confident driver I used to take public transport a lot, and would rather be a lot early rather than a little late, so I’m fine with waiting for people to arrive, or being a maid if necessary.
    I have the exact opposite thing happen most hilariously, I am always early, the thought of making someone wait for me is painful, I have a friend who is the same, during the height of our insanity we both arrived AN HOUR early at a rendevous point – he brought a book and I had games on my phone. No we are not that crazy anymore, we seem to agree that 15 minutes early is the maximum.

    But back to tardy people – at the end of the day I think it’s about breaking down excuses. I felt like a shrill harpy dating a tardy person, but it was tough love. Examples? “No you do NOT have time to tinker with your car/computer/pet project ten minutes before you have to be out the door! No you will not take a nap now when you promised to bake brownies, you will bake them now, have an opportunity to change out of your batter-splattered clothing and maybe nap when they’re cooling! NO DON’T TAKE A SHOWER YOU HAVE NO TIME YOU SMELL FINE GET OUT THE DOOR”
    (for those that now believe I’m some sort of evil person, I’m not, I don’t mind waiting for other people if they’re a bit late, I just hate inconveniencing other people)
    Seeing the two posters (lilyG and susanna) ask where the time goes gives me a flashback – the time disappears when you get distracted. I refuse to believe susanna wasn’t distracted by anything trying to get the kids out the door, how big is the house? If I wanted to chase children out the door I’d just dare them to a race…In my house schoolbags are packed the night before, lunch is done and in the fridge, if it needs to be unreasonably early I’m dressed the night before (not always possible but sometimes works). Morning needs to be brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, eat breakfast. Everything else is a “distraction” and will be what steals “those 25 minutes”. This is a habit my parents drilled into me, useful to this day.
    Note: And no, I don’t shower in the morning, I shower in the evening to get the day’s dirt and grime off me, I don’t do anything dirty in bed so I shouldn’t be dirty when I wake up…what do YOU do in bed to warrent a shower in the morning!? (Please don’t answer this, I’m trying to be funny)

  • Anonymous May 18, 2011, 8:21 am

    @Peony–please don’t call Susanna “borderline abusive” for having trouble getting her son to school on time. School starts early, mornings can be chaotic (kids need to be dressed and fed, homework gathered, dog fed and let out and back in again, etc.), a lot of kids are notorious for saying, “By the way, I need you to sign my permission form for skating/make me a costume for the school play/help me build a life-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower” literally the DAY they have to hand it in–not saying that Susanna’s son is one of those kids, but some are like that. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s easy to be a bit disorganized, it’s easy to fall behind, and it happens to the best of us. Some people have more trouble with it than others, and one of those people happens to be my dad, who’s otherwise a perfectly nice person. So, by calling Susanna “abusive” for having a flawed internal clock, you’re tarring my dad with the same brush.

  • Bint May 18, 2011, 8:27 am

    LilyG: “I don’t understand the people who are always punctual-do they spend this much time going places?”

    No, of course not. Working backwards to plan from when I have to be somewhere takes me about 30 seconds, and the schedule you listed doesn’t strike me as much effort – it’s just what you do when you have to go somewhere, and I’m including with dogs and little kids. You get up, everyone gets fed, washed, dressed etc and leaves on time or rings someone if they’re unavoidably delayed. What’s the big deal?

    Susanna: peony’s right. It’s horrendous for kids to be constantly late because of their parents – every time it happens your child is likely to be anxious, panicked and feeling out of control. Every kid in my school with chronically late parents ended up crying with frustration and embarrassment at least once because hey, their parent just couldn’t organise themselves.

  • Chocobo May 18, 2011, 8:43 am

    Peony — whoa, borderline abusive? For kids being a few minutes late to school? That’s quite the leap of logic. Sure, Susanna should probably try a bit harder to get organized and not spend so much time getting ready to just drop off the kiddos, but I wouldn’t call that negligent or abusive parenting. Geez!

    Susanna, my biggest problem is that when I get ready in the bathroom (or wherever), there’s no clock except in my bedroom. It’s easy to lose time when you’re not looking at the clock and busy doing your makeup or shoving clothes onto kids. Try putting a big and obvious clock in every room that you use in the morning — that way the time that is passing is staring you square in the face, and it will be easier to keep track of your progress.

  • Cashie May 18, 2011, 9:43 am

    @ Susanna
    I don’t know what grade your child is in, but many teachers deduct points for tardiness and it will affect your child’s grade. That would be a shame.

    @ Lisa G.
    I am always punctual, and I don’t understand why it takes some people so long to get ready. I have a family and they’re aware of the time, and when I say we leave by this time, we do. Often, we are ready to go and sit down to converse and wait until the appointed time arrives and then we leave. But it only takes me 20 minutes to get ready for work, makeup and all. I have a simple hairstyle, I plan my outfit, make sure my laundry is always done. It doesn’t seem that hard.

    Speaking of the habitually early, I did arrive for a dinner 30 minutes early once. The hostess had told me on the phone 6:30 and somehow in my mind it became 6:00. I arrive, she is in shock and embarrassed, I offer to run to the store to pick up some herbs she needed. I got back to her place 5 minutes late. I always double check my times now just to be sure. I agree that being early can be just as bad as being late.

  • lkb May 18, 2011, 9:49 am

    Somehow it strikes me that there was a lot more going on with Kay than just being late. While she behaved very poorly, it strikes me that there was discord in the household (i.e., argument involving husband and/or son). If so, I hope it’s been resolved.

  • Shalamar May 18, 2011, 10:03 am

    I stopped going to a bellydancing class with a friend because she was the person in charge of driving us both, and she was habitually late. The class started at 6:30 and was about a ten-minute drive away from my house. She would invariably show up at my house at 6:28 or even later. The instructor would glare at us (don’t blame her), and my friend would say cheerfully “Oh, sorry, I have no sense of time!” Grr.

  • geez louise May 18, 2011, 10:23 am

    I had a friend once who would keep me waiting a half an hour or more nearly every time we made plans, particularly if it was just me being inconvenienced. (If we had tickets for something at a particular time she didn’t seem to have a problem being there on-time.) I cannot count the number of times over the years I sat around twiddling my thumbs while waiting for her to show up.

    I’m more of a habitually early person, and would generally be a little early for whatever we planned (but I am not counting my few-minutes-early as part of the time by which she was late.)

    One time – ONE time – I lost track of time myself and was late calling her. She acted like I was the rudest person there ever was and I had to kiss her bum and apologize like mad in order to earn her grudging forgiveness.

    While I did believe an apology was in order and that I had done wrong in that instance, it burned me up when I compared it to the multitude of times she kept me waiting without even a nod in the direction of having inconvenienced me.

    One of several reasons that person is a former friend.

  • Jughead May 18, 2011, 11:20 am

    I had a friend who was ALWAYS late, it didn’t matter what we were doing or where we were going. Oftentimes I would show up at her house at the appointed time only to be greeted by her still in PJs and told that she ‘just needed to shower and get ready” which would take her a good two hours.
    I put up with this for too long I admit, but she eventually got the point when I would leave as soon as she was ready – this was a little mean, but effective. She would say “I thought we were going to hang out!” And I would reply “So did I.”

  • Calli Arcale May 18, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Lateness is an issue. One can excuse occasional tardiness, on the good-manners basis of never assuming the worst of people without a legitimate reason, but when it is excessive and unexplained, or when it is habitual, then there is a definite problem and one can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt.

    What is excessive? Well, being two or three minutes late is reasonable for informal events, as watches can reasonably vary by that much and one may be slightly delayed by the unforseen without being so delayed that one must call ahead to reschedule. For formal events, such as weddings, funerals, and job interviews, one should not cut it so close and should deliberately aim to get there at least five to ten minutes early in case of delays, and more if it’s a long drive. (Obviously, if you do encounter a delay, you may use up that margin. But that’s why you leave such a margin, so you do not risk being late.) If you do end up unavoidably late, you should apologize, and it may be fair to drop in anyway to wish the hosts well and apologize in person, depending on the setting. But if one has missed the food, then one has missed the food! Deal with it!

    How to handle a tardy guest depends on the situation and the guest. I have a couple of relatives who are chronically late. The family long since stopped holding up dinner for them, and they no longer make the pretense of “we’ll try to get there on time” — they decline when they can’t make it, or accept after saying they will come after dinner and not to make plates for them. It’s not perfect — we all miss having them at family dinners. But at least it’s all honest this way. (Never promise what you can’t deliver, after all.) However, even they knew better than to be late for a wedding! For my wedding, they planned ahead, knowing their own problems with chronic lateness, and aimed to arrive an hour and a half early! Naturally, this was also the one time they met their target, so they ended up getting to the church before the janitor arrived to unlock it. 😉 When my then-fiance and I arrived (we’re not superstitious, and carpooled over already dressed), we found them enjoying McDonald’s takeout on the lawn. Their son was the ringbearer, and they were damned if he was gonna be late. 😉

  • springishere May 18, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Ok, so the gal was late. who knows why, but she did not hold up the wedding, nor the reception, or anything else with her tardiness. it was a bit wierd to ask the caterers for food, but not knowing the rest of her side of the story, I think we should not jump to conclusions here.

  • Athena Carson May 18, 2011, 2:53 pm

    Wow – I had no idea Chronometrics 101 could spark such vitriol in people. Would some of you please take a step back and listen to yourselves? I get it – rude behavior is rude, no matter how you slice it, but if you are more worked up over this issue than, say, domestic violence or many of the other serious problems many people face every day, you may need to reexamine your priorities.

    @peony – Your threshold of heartless, abusive behavior is abominably low. I am sure that, given the choice, her son would be much better off with an emotionally available mom who loves him (but happens to have a punctuality problem) than with a punctual, emotionally and physically abusive mom. Yes, I know you said “borderline abusive.” But the fact that we are even using the word “abusive,” even in the “borderline” context, to a mother who is just trying her best to be the sole performer at a 3-ring circus …. I have no words.

  • Walden May 18, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I echo Mike Johnson’s opinion: getting oneself to a place at a certain time is one of those expectations society has for adults, like paying your bills, keeping your car inspected and your lawn kept up. No, it’s not really “hateful” as some have pointed out, but it is a sign of immaturity: it shows the lack of self-discipline and lack of empathy for others that even “good” children show. We don’t expect kids to be able to have that kind of self-discipline, but after the age of 16, it’s a big sign of immaturity. (Which is why the best way not to be hired for a job is to be late for the interview.)

  • KB May 18, 2011, 5:53 pm

    I am another chronically early person, but I don’t see why anyone who is early has to impose themselves on other people, which is, as others have said, as rude as being late. I always carry a book or my phone and will sit in my car and read or play games or whatever until either a) the proper start time arrives or b) another guest shows up. If I’m going by public transport or walking, I will find a cafe or a bench (or even a low fence around the corner) and sit and read there until the time comes.

  • MeganAmy May 18, 2011, 5:58 pm

    My mother comes from a culture where people are always 30 minutes to 1 hour late. It was awful for me as a child because I was always having to deal with the consequences of getting to school late and waiting outside for an hour, by myself, after school, for her to pick me up.

    So, I’m always very punctual. I have at least one clock in every room of the house, in each car, a watch, check my cell phone clock, etc.

    I am a planner. If I have to be somewhere, as soon as I have the invitation, it’s on the calendar and I put the address down and make plans for how long it will take to get there. The night before any event, I do as much as I can so that I’m not rushed the next morning. For example, if I’m taking the kids to the zoo the next morning, I’ll just stay up late the night before putting the diaper bag and stroller into the car. Making sure we have jackets, snacks, etc. Then, I don’t worry about how long that will take in the morning, if I’m meeting friends at a certain time because as much as possible has been done already.

    I always do the most important things first, and the least last, so if I’m running out of time, I can cut corners. Maybe I only put on eyeliner, but not mascara or blush. If I don’t have time to shave my legs, then I wear pants instead of a skirt, that type of thing.

    I agree with you and Chocobo that “early is just as rude as late.”
    “But what to do about the early person?”
    This generally affects me most if I’m throwing a party at my house. Usually, one of the last things I do a half hour before guests arrive is jump in the shower. I don’t like to smell like or wear the food I’ve been cooking, so I’ll get dressed after cooking. If I’m upstairs and in the shower and the doorbell rings…TOO BAD. If they’re 30 minutes early, they can hang out on my doorstep. I’ll open the door for them about 10 minutes before the event. And I usually just say “Hi. Come in. Nice to see you. I still have to set some things up before the party starts. Please, excuse me” and I run to the kitchen and finish doing whatever it was that I had to finish up, like making guacamole, for example, because if you make that too far ahead of a party, it turns brown. I’ve had early guests say to me “When I rang the bell and you didn’t answer, I was worried that I had the wrong house.” As if I were supposed to be ready 1 hour before the party, just sitting on my couch waiting for guests. I then respond casually “I was in the shower” and make no apologies.

  • Jillybean May 18, 2011, 6:17 pm

    @Izzy – I don’t have “rage” at people arriving early, but it does bother me and inconveniences me. And while it’s nice that you offer to help set up (and cool if that’s how you circle of friends works), I don’t want help. I actually very much enjoy the ritual of setting up an event. I like deciding what goes where, and how I want things laid out. I don’t want to relinquish the table setting or other various details to the discretion of a guest. And I don’t want to spend 10 minutes explaining how I want something done when I could have done it myself in 5. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but I want things the way I want them, and like I mentioned, actually enjoy the ritual of it all. Further, I typically use the last 20 minutes before any event I plan to freshen up. So, if a person shows up at my place more than 5 minutes early, I lose that opportunity. If I’ve invited guests for 1pm, it means I’m expecting them at 1pm. Anyone who arrives early is treated warmly and kindly, and offered a beverage and conversation. But, I am being forced to entertain before I’m ready, and chronic offenders would easily find themselves off my guest list for anything but the most casual of events.

  • Stacey May 18, 2011, 6:49 pm

    I just wanted to point out that in my state, a parent can be taken to court if their child has excessive tardies in school. Borderline abusive, maybe not, but it IS considered to be neglect.

  • stillinva May 18, 2011, 7:39 pm

    oh Atheena, please. give me a break. OF COURSE something like domestic violence is more important that being late, but this is an etiquette site. we don’t deal with such subjects here. or world hunger. or stopping all wars. you know, really serious stuff.

    let me guess. judging by the tone of your reply, and the level of your defensiveness, you probably tend to be late for most things, right? and the people that you keep waiting consistently should just understand because there are people in the world with REAL problems. so you being 30 minutes or so late just isn’t that big a deal when compared to real suffering in the world. that’s the only reason i can see that you would be using such serious subjects as deflections here.

  • stillinva May 18, 2011, 7:48 pm

    springishere, we aren’t jumping to any conclusions here. Kay’s sister, the submitter of the story, states that Kay is always late. for everything. this isn’t a one off. it is a pattern. i don’t really care why she was late, though Kay did tell her sister that she just lost track of the time. she was late once again. and when she DID show up, she was dressed inappropriately in jeans for a wedding.

    one wonders, since she not only made the caterer unpack the food so she could fix herself a plate, but demanded to fix a plate for her husband and son who didn’t show up, if she only showed up for the last of the reception so she didn’t have to prepare dinner?

  • Izzy May 19, 2011, 1:40 am

    @Athena Carson: Wow, a post about tardiness with a comments section and people dare to share their opinions about tardiness?!? How inconceivable! They should be talking about domestic violence instead! How dare we express frustration at habitually lateness instead of outrage at what our goddess of wisdom has deemed “serious problems”
    “but if you are more worked up over this issue than, say, domestic violence”
    Nobody has said anything about domestic violence, nor compared our reactions to tardiness vs domestic violence. Your deflection of the subject at hand is unfair, of course we’re not discussing domestic violence, that was never the subject.

  • Asp May 19, 2011, 5:23 am

    @Athena Carson
    How can you complain about people’s reaction to this post when there are starving children in Africa? We complain about late people because this post is about lateness. If it was about domestic violence, we would complain about that (although that is unlikely since this is an etiquette website, not a domestic violence website). Are we supposed to end every statement with: “…of course this is not as bad as domestic violence/dictatorship/genocide/what have you”?
    When we go about our lives, we will be concerned about all these things, but when we post on an etiquettte website, on the subject of lateness, it is reasonable to expect us to talk about late people. In fact, starting a discussion about domestic violence could be considered a breach of etiquette, since it is essentially high-jacking this site to talk about something totally off-topic.

  • karma May 19, 2011, 5:52 am

    Teacher here. Susanna’s behavior is not abusive, but it is a problem. When she does this to her child, it puts the child in an unfair position that will probably result in negativity from the school. Susanna, if you are old enough to have a child, drive, and work any type of job (in home or out), you are old enough to make school a priority.

  • WrenskiBaby May 19, 2011, 6:43 am

    Chocobo, you might try putting a clock in your bathroom. My family did this when I was a teen and I have had a clock in my bathroom ever since. I’m sure it was part of the reason that among my three children we never had anyone late to school, ever!

  • The Elf May 19, 2011, 7:34 am

    RE: the chronically early. Those are my parents. I always find it funny that they have a problem with being early and I have a problem with being late! It’s probably related – some sort of internal rebellion or something, or maybe I inherited a poor internal clock from them and they’ve compensated by always being early. In any case, they are consistently early by a LOT. We’re talking half an hour or more. If it is something like a party, they’ll just hang out somewhere until time is close and then show up 5-10 minutes early, which is acceptably early. If they’re meeting someone at a restauarant, they’ll just grab a table and have a drink while they wait. If it’s me and my house, they just come on over. That’s fine, IMHO, as I can also count on them to help out with set-up (if any) and not to be offended if they catch me before I’m ready for them. They’re easy going that way. I’d have a real problem if they showed up early and expected me to also be early. But it is weird to have Christmas dinner start at 4pm and they show up at 3 while I’m still vacuuming.

    The earliness gets worse if there is a hard deadline, like a flight. One time, they agreed to drive me to the airport for an international flight. It was an 8:30am flight, and we agreed to leave at 6am. They showed up at my house at 4:45am. I wasn’t even dressed. Make yourself some coffee, Dad. I’ll be ready in an hour.

    I don’t get it, but I do know that I’d rather be with someone who is chronically early (so long as they are easy going about it) than with someone who is chronically late. If I had to pick!

  • The Elf May 19, 2011, 7:52 am

    LilyG, I don’t spend THAT much time “going places” because it’s pretty rare when I need to be dressed to the nines and all that. But since I’ve started my little tricks, it feels like it takes me longer to get places because I start so much earlier. However, it actually is faster because I’m not getting lost or scrambling to find my keys or that one shoe. Plus it’s healthier (mentally) because I’m not rushing to get there and cursing every red light. And on top of it all, I’m not late.

    But there still was a mental block to spending “that much time” preparing to go someplace and feeling like I was obsessing over it. You have to get past that mental block and just make it a habit, and then the feeling of over-preparing goes away.

  • Chocobo May 19, 2011, 9:45 am

    @WrenskiBaby – that’s exactly my suggestion for Susanna. It makes things much easier in the morning if your major “getting ready” rooms, like the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, even your walk-in closet (if you have one) have very obvious and large clocks in them. That way the time is constantly staring you square in the face. If you just remember to look up a bit, even chronologically-impaired people like myself and Susanna, who have a less accurate internal sense of time, can still keep track. It really makes a difference.

  • JennJenn68 May 19, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Regarding the importance of punctuality at school: I volunteer in a school doing “safe arrival” checks one day a week and what should, ideally, be a forty-five minute job more often than not turns into two hours because parents a) cannot understand the concept of phoning the absence line to let the school know a child will be absent, b) cannot comprehend that if a child is going to be late maybe it’s best to let the school know. Parents: It is INCREDIBLY disruptive to the teachers and other students in the class when your child wanders in late. He or she has missed any housekeeping details, any important announcements, and more often than not makes enough noise coming in and getting settled that it throws the whole lesson off… for everyone. Yes, there are mitigating circumstances, but those are definitely in the minority, at least at the school where I volunteer. People who think it’s no big deal–have you ever tried to capture and maintain the attention of twenty or more distractible children? That’s what a teacher has to do EVERY SINGLE DAY, and for long stretches of time. It IS a big deal. Smarten up!

  • Robert May 19, 2011, 2:30 pm

    @ SV RE: 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.

    A local day care center instituted a policy allowing a 15 minute grace period then a $5/minute charge for any additional charge. As I understand it they are very lenient for people who call prior to pick up and/or have a valid excuse but if you are habitually late you can expect to pay a premium for your tardiness (or you can find a new day care facility).

    I understand it has done wonders for their late pick-up problems.

  • wolfgirl May 20, 2011, 8:38 am

    To Majuba and Anonymous, add me to the “late dad” camp! always, without fail, for everything, no apology, either being picked up 1hr 20 mins late from school (luckily our school had a private playing field for us to wait in, but myself and sister were commonly the last kids to leave by a huge margin, and unsupervised by this point) or being late leaving for a friend’s party or whatever. If we were late leaving, it got even worse cos then out would come, ” it’s ok, I KNOW A SHORTCUT”. After the age of about 6 I learned to dread those words, we’d practically scream at him not to, but he thought it was kinda funny, like a challange to beat the clock and he’d go haring off down tiny country lanes with barely enoughroom for a bike, at 90mph, then of course get horribly lost thus making us waay later! Sigh. But seriosuly it was SO stressful, I was probably a bit socially anxious anyway or I might not have cared, but I actually think this constant lateness made me much more so, and I still worry about social events. Whenever we would be annoyed/upset/stressed by it, if we showed it Dad always got really cross, saying we were ungrateful, he had come all this way to get us etc. But this post has made me realise perhaps picking up your kids from school on time isn’t exactly a huge out-of-the-ordianry favour to do for your children! And its NOT abusive, but it does have more impact on children than parents perhaps realise. The worst of it is, as a result of parents with no timekeeping, and never learning these tricks for keeping track of time, I am naturally late now (tho by far less time than Dad). It’s silly cos I hate being late, like I’m def one of the “apologise profusely and be embarassed” ones, but I have to struggle to be on time.

  • Natalie May 20, 2011, 11:23 am

    MeganAmy – try pressing a piece of plastic wrap flush against the top of the guacamole. The brown-ness is oxidation, and if you keep the oxygen out it isn’t a problem. Another option (if you use citrus in your quacamole) is to squeeze lemon or lime juice over the top and then putting plastic wrap over it. The juice keeps it from turning brown.

    I had a very odd experience with a chronic late friend recently when planning a surprise party. We had always thought this girl was just scatterbrained and that was the cause of her lateness, so we decided to call her an hour before the party started (7:00) and make sure she was getting ready at that point. When I spoke to her, she said explicitly that she was planning on arriving at the party at 7:15. What? It’s not a big party with people coming in and out – it’s a surprise dinner party! Why are you *planning* on arriving late?

    And no surprise (to me), she was later than her own planned lateness. In fact, if she had come 10 minutes later she would have given away the surprise by meeting the guest of honor on the stoop.

  • Enna May 20, 2011, 12:24 pm

    That is such bad behaviour. If I was at a wedding and a fellow guest was late I wouldn’t wait for them at my wedding! The post about Petty Girl – that person is just a control freak who likes to control other people and mainpulate them – she’ll do it to the wrong person one day like an employer or boss.

    I had one firend who was constantly late – she would sit and chat to other people and I would be hinting like mad that I need to eat and inject – she even visited me in hospital when I was diagonesed with the diabetes. I need to eat, I need to inject, we didn’t plan to be this late so I want to get it over and done with to avoid low/high blood sugars. It was the fact that 1) she would be late meeting up 2) she spend twice as long as she needed doing stuff and 3) if she met someone she would chat for twice as long as she needed to. One time I waited 45 mintues for her to turn up!

  • Pugsley May 20, 2011, 9:16 pm

    Oh man-I work for my veterinarian and she is also a very dear friend. Unfortunately she has absolutely zero sense of time management. She is chronically late to her appointments and it is so emabarassing to be staring at a waiting room full of clients and patients and having to keep telling them that the doctor will be here “any minute”. I think she under-estimates how long it will take her to do just about everything. When her son graduated the 8th grade, his report card for the year listed, hold on, 92 times tardy in the course of the year. Sadly this is not uncommon and his younger sister still attends the same private school and I think the school administrators have basically given up at this point (her older daughter attended the same private school so the trend started there and continues on to this day). I’ve spoken to her about it but it just doesn’t do much good. Fortunately for her she is an awesome vet and her clients love her so we all wait for her.
    On the flip side, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship in high school (young and dumb, ya know?) and my boyfriend was constantly, chronically late. I absolutely know in my heart that his tardi9ness was all about the control it gave him over me. I cannot count the number of times he would be “on his way” to pick me up for whatever, and I would wait on average 30 mintues but sometimes upwards of 2 to 2 1/2 hours. But God help me if I told him I was on my way and I wasn’t at his house in the 15 minutes or so it took to get there.

  • MeganAmy May 21, 2011, 3:39 am

    Natalie – thanks for the tip! I will try that with my guacamole in the future.

    This post made me think of another story. Because my mother and her entire (very large) side of the family are always late, when my husband and I planned our wedding, we had to plan around their lateness. I didn’t want late family members running around me scrambling to find seats as I was walking down the aisle. We reserved our wedding vendors to start the ceremony a full half hour after the time we listed on the invitation. We hated to punish the punctual guests by making them wait, but at least half our guests were from my mother’s side of the family so after considering all the possible outcomes, that’s what we did.

  • mary m. May 22, 2011, 12:25 pm

    I concede many of your points, but I remain rather wishy-washy about tardiness at work, for what I think are good reasons. Of course it depends on the business _ police and firemen and nurses and doctors should never be late unless it is unavoidable, and then must warn the workplace if they cannot make it by the starting minute.
    But there are exceptions. For a few years, I was in charge of a desk once a week, and in our deadline business, it was always apparent to me that being “there” at peak hours _ being alert when the most work was expected, not getting too flustered on deadline, being able to “think on one’s feet” when he pressure was on _ was actually more important to other departments than whether the entire desk was neatly arrayed in their seats by X a.m. or p.m. when a monitor walked by.
    What can your department do? can be just as crucial a question, as, was our pet etiquette rule followed?
    As far as all the moralizing about selfishness goes, moralizing a whole heckuva lot at the workplace is not necessarily conducive to the best work, and to the best staff (that is, to not driving people away). Scolds and psychologists have their place, but think before you shrink.

  • LilyG May 23, 2011, 6:05 pm

    This was a very eye-opening post: Hellions, you have done your jobs! I had no idea being late all the time was so resented. I agree with Karma I am really a poor time manager. Just trying is right in that I am also really disorganized. I can keep the bathroom, kitchen, linens and towels clean and that’s it. The rest of the place is a disaster. I’m tired all the time and sometimes sleep on the couch rather than stir my weary bones to walk to bed.
    I found Xtina’s, Calliope’s and Elf’s suggestions very helpful-I was a little early today by pretending my 10 am appt was at 9:45. That’s a great idea, thank you! And the “cushion of time” thing was good-I needed it. Saturday, Doggo was bit on his am walk and needed emergency X-rays, further delaying us!
    But Bint, the problem is: to me, it IS ‘way too much effort-it took up my entire day from the time I got up to arriving at the wedding. As much as I love my family, I don’t want to spend every waking moment on logistics. I don’t do that on vacation for myself! Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe my depression makes me slower than everyone else. Maybe something’s wrong with me for being late all the time… In fact, I’m sure something is wrong with me. However, I hate having to spend that much mental effort on watching and herding everyone.

    Cashie, I WISH my family obeyed like yours does. I would love to tell them “let’s go” and actually have it work. What heaven! I was never late until I got married. This last Saturday, I kept everyone on task and we arrived in plenty of time to sit down a visit for a few minutes before the bride. I thought I was wonderfully successful and a real balabusta-not so my family. My husband told me I was being a bitch, and my kids said they didn’t like me bothering them constantly about the time. We agreed we’d rather be late than be cranky and seething with each other.

    Like Elf says,I just have to get over the mental block of spending “that much” time preparing and bite the bullet. I have to say, I agree with Athena in that lateness seems to inspire foaming vitriol. My daughter pinned it down when she observed the other families and said she was glad I didn’t raise them to clean their plates or else, be obsessively tidy (as in scrub the corners of the floor with Q Tips like my SIL), be punctual by screaming at them to be on time, adhere to letter of the law rather than the spirit, judge people as morally bereft for slight errors of judgement and so on. She preferred learning to be kind and polite while retaining some individuality, choice and charity, learning from her own errors.

    We’ll have to agree respectfully to disagree and prize what we each hold dear in this debate. I thank you all for showing me how other people feel about this. I will continue to work on my faults.

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