I recently read an interesting article by Tim Urban about the reasons running late which generally categorises all the late-people as either A-holes because they don’t care or “people with problem” as kind of a put-off: “yes, I have a problem; sometime I’ll get around to fix that”. That article was in response to another article trying to explain why late-people are actually great. I would like to suggest my own prognosis:
Let’s imagine placing all the people on a scale- on one side, we’ll put all the people running late and on the other we’ll put all the people arriving on time (“pünktlich”, as they say). it doesn’t really matter why some people are on the side of the scale and the rest are on the other, let’s try to think what these opposites think of one another:
Letty, who’s always late, might think of Timmy (Who’s always on time, duh) that he’s a bit anal and he probably worries too much. However at other time, she might envy him for managing to get things done due to his pünktlich virtue. She might even hate him for it. Which is reasonable, yet still stupid. Timmy on the other hand is extremely annoyed with Letty’s incapacity to keep her word and get to places on time, or he’d given up on her altogether. He think she’s an irresponsible person and this image of her dictates their entire relationship to become something very stressful.
What Timmy fails to understand that not only Letty doesn’t think highly of “time” as concept in general but she also unable to estimate time properly. “Time appreciation“, and especially “Other people’s time appreciation” is very fundamental in our perception of reality: is our time on earth limited? do we have time to stop and smell the roses? what’s the point of living if you don’t stop? this is a philosophical question one must answer for himself, although the pünktlich answer is simple – “if stopping to smell the roses is important to you – schedule it”.
“Time evaluation” is the ability to measure time. just like looking at a certain distance and giving a rough estimate how far it is, so does time evaluation is the ability to give a relatively solid estimate how long will it take to perform a certain task, and also – how many ‘unpredictables’ might happen. Yes, surprises happen all the time but a true pünktlich will always take just the right amount of safety precautions: I’m never late not because I don’t run into traffics -it’s because I left earlier enough for the unlikely event that a traffic jam might happen.
Late-people don’t disrespect the other person – you’ll be surprised to know they’ll be late even for things that are extremely important for them, such as flight or court-appearance. Being late inevitably cause social unpleasantness and many time the late-people try to cover it, and more often that they should – they lie about their reason (“it’s not my fault!”), but many other time they truly and utterly incapable to estimate their time except for the general notion that they’re late and there’s nothing to do about it anyhow. a friend recently informed me he’ll arrive to our meeting “in 5 minutes”, which was already 10 minutes late, but while he talked on the mobile I could hear his dog barking, meaning he was at home, which was 20 minutes away. He didn’t lie – he honestly estimated the time horribly, so there’s no real reason to get mad at him. Only the disappointment and the realisation that next I’ll time myself by his trigger (“text me when you get inside your car, and only then I’ll leave home”), taking the risk the meeting might be canceled completely.
On a side note, “being-late” sometimes have political reasons. Girls are usually late – not because of their bad time evaluation, rather than they simply trying not to look too eager, and it should be acceptable, because this is the way are twisted society works. Personally, I do appreciate girls who arrive on time, I always try to arrive just a tad earlier – it’s disrespectful in my view that somebody should have to wait for me. But that’s my own thing, if other people don’t see it that way, I should not be surprised or disappointed when they’re running late, simply because they see it differently.
I’m a strong advocate for the pünktlich side of the scale and I run a packed life, filled with adventures of all sort, and thanks to my relatively good time estimation, I also stop to smell the roses (I have a time slot for that!). For the late-person who’s happy with the way his life heading, I should say that happiness is our ultimate goal and who care if he cannot tell a minute to an hour (but don’t expect me to wait up for you). And to the unhappy late-person – buy a wrist-watch, put alarm clocks for any scheduled event, remember that arriving early is better than arriving late, and know that time-evaluation takes practice and it’s not easy to begin it, especially in later age. Good luck and it’s the sincere effort that counts.