COLUMN: Better late than never, but never late is better

I have this friend. For the sake of protecting the accused, let’s call her Sue.

Sue has been one of my closest friends for many, many years and I love her dearly. She’s loyal, supportive, funny, caring – everything a good friend should be. There’s just one thing – she’s habitually late.

Ever since I met Sue, she has always been late for everything. Meeting up at 3 to go shopping? More like 4:30.

I consider myself to be a pretty laid-back individual, so Sue’s serial tardiness has never really bothered me that much.

That is, until this past year, when making plans with me became making plans with me and my infant daughter.

Anyone who is a parent knows that kids, especially teeny-tiny ones, are not very patient. And waiting in limbo for an excess of an hour for someone’s arrival with a hungry/tired/cranky baby in tow isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.

One recent morning as I compulsively checked my phone, waiting for a text from Sue to let me know she was on her way over, I started thinking. What is it that makes somebody a ‘late person’?

Are their brains wired differently from the rest of ours, depriving them of the ability to properly judge how much time it will take  to execute a certain action?

I know it takes me about hour to wake up, drink some coffee, fix my hair, brush my teeth, get dressed and pack a lunch, so I make sure I wake up about an hour before I have to leave the house.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me, but maybe it’s an equation that late people just can’t grasp?

Or do they merely live in such a perpetual state of disorganization, that even when they allot themselves their one hour, they still can’t manage to pull it off?

Another part of me thinks that late people have a slightly larger sense of self-importance than the rest of us.

“It’s OK if I’m late, the world will wait for me.”

(In discussing this last point with a friend recently, she mentioned an article she had read that suggested being late is the most disrespectful thing you can do. Not sure if I agree it’s that extreme, but it certainly is annoying.)

But perhaps the biggest factor that allows late people to continue living their lives in such a fashion is the lack of consequences. If the culprits were held accountable – or maybe even punished – for being late all the time, maybe they would realize that the world doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) wait for them.

As I vented to my husband a few months back about the time I’d wasted waiting on Sue that day, he asked me flat out: “Why do you put up with it?”

I didn’t really have an answer. Because she’s my friend? Because I’m used to it? Because that’s just the way she is?

A few weeks later I found myself waiting on her yet again, and I decided enough was enough. I texted her and politely said that we had missed our window of opportunity to visit and she’d have to see me and the little one another time. (If there’s one way to get through to a person, it’s depriving them of some baby-time. People go crazy when it comes to babies… but that’s another column all together.)

After being flooded with apologies and excuses, Sue admitted something to me I never thought I’d hear:

“I really need to stop being so late, huh?”

Will she ever change? It’s hard to say, but I’d like to think that by not letting her get away with it every time, I’ve helped her to realize there’s a reason why people have schedules they need to stick to.

After all, she might become a mother herself one day – and nothing will force her to address her disorganization and time-management issues like a baby.

And to be honest, I can hardly wait.

Melissa Smalley is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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