‘I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!’
White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Disney
As a child, I always liked the White Rabbit. Not because he was sweet and apologetic and humble. Nor because his outfit was adorable. I liked the White Rabbit because he was in a hurry. He was late – and that was terrible. TERRIBLE. And he spent the entire film worrying about it.
Oh that art imitated life. If only.
There is one of thing in life guaranteed to wind me up, boil my blood and generally put me in a foul mood for the rest of time, and it’s this: someone being late. Put simply, I hate it.
It might seem like a strange thing to feel so strongly about (when there are so many truly dreadful things in the world) and obviously I don’t mean it on the same level as those dreadful things, but in the context of the top most irritating things in one’s daily life, it’s up there with working on weekends, the end of a holiday and tax returns.
It’s not that I am unsympathetic to unforeseen circumstances. If a pregnant friend was on their way to meet me and, I dunno, they went into labour… that’d be okay. Sort of acceptable.
Or if someone rings up 6 hours prior to the meeting time and says ‘Look, my leg’s fallen off, I’m in hospital waiting for a new one,’ that too I’d understand.
But generally speaking I’ve not come across such satisfactory excuses. They simply don’t exist. Mostly, people are late because they’re bad timekeepers and they can’t be bothered to be on time. And that’s the sad truth of it. This to me is selfish. Selfish, selfish, selfish.
They don’t consider poor, forward-thinking, organised you – leaving 10 minutes early just to make sure you arrive at the planned hour, for them.
They don’t think about you, shivering on a street corner – prime target for muggers – as they ‘quickly’ finish off that last episode of Homeland.
They don’t think about you, full stop. And that’s why it’s selfish (selfish, selfish, selfish).
In our parents’ youth – the Stone Age, before mobiles – if someone said they were going to meet you at the cinema at 7, they’d meet you at the cinema at 7. For they’d know the only alternative to meeting you at the cinema at 7 (and preventing you from either storming off, apoplectic with rage, or calling the police and filing a missing person’s report) would be to:
1.) Ring the cinema
2.) Find someone to go outside
3.) Spot the vacant-looking person fitting the description you described
4.) Inform them of your unmannered, ill-advised tardiness
5.) And apologise on your behalf
What an effort that would be. Being on time? By far, the lesser of two evils.
Today, no. Today, I just send a text! A stupid lame-ass, half-hearted, inconsiderate little note like:
‘SO sorry [make up some ridiculously unfeasible excuse]. I’m going to be about 10 minutes late (though what I actually mean is I haven’t even left yet – tee hee!).
I mean, I’m shaking with rage just thinking about it. What on earth do they expect you to do during that time, these sluggish people? Stand there like a lemon playing ‘I Spy’ with the traffic?
It’s unacceptable. Unacceptable.
And then there are those people that always do it. And it’s apparently hilarious!
‘You know me, I’m always late!’
Yes, but do you know me? I am ALWAYS ON TIME.
Self-help books would probably tell me to just be late myself when I know I’m due to meet a punctuality offender. But why should I lower my timely standards to fit in with someone else’s incompetence?
Worst of all, if you haven’t seen someone for ages and they pitch up late, you can’t be angry – as that’s weird. Instead you grimace at them (rattling off their lazy apology) and swallow your rage like you would a tennis ball whole. To explode and curse their nonchalant behaviour would be to start off the night on wrong footing – and then it’s your fault, ruining things, making mountains out of mole hills (‘I’m here now aren’t I?’ they rather obviously point out).
These timekeeping criminals (you know who you are) are getting out of hand, and out of jail – free. And it’s time we put a stop to it.
So, dear amigos, if the next time you arrive at 7:02pm and weirdly I’m not there, know I’m not running two minutes late – I’ve left.
There’s a very good episode of Homeland I’d rather like to see. Night!
By Beenie Langley