An Open Letter To Late People: The Art and Kindness of Being ON TIME

by | Jan 4, 2015 | Life | 7 comments

This first post of this new year may come off a little ranty.

I suppose “An Open Letter To Late People” might hold a tone of discontent at the very least.

An Open Letter To Late People: The Art and Kindness of Being ON TIME

However, my point is not to rant. My point is to make a point.

Two points, really…

1) Being ON TIME is a beautiful work of art.

2) Being ON TIME is an act of human kindness.

Hitherhencetofore my essay (with rant-ish undertones):

An Open Letter To Late People: The Art and Kindness of Being On Time

First, let me make something clear – this is not about the usual, 5ish minutes late. All of us do it. I am not writing about that… this is about the very late, chronic offender. 

To be on time, one must approach one’s day with thoughtfulness and intent. It may mean waking up earlier. Sometimes it means cutting conversations respectfully short. Sometimes it means denying oneself a morning cup of coffee. Especially, a cup that requires one to stop at a coffee shop – because nothing says, “I don’t care about you” more than someone showing up late with a cup of Starbucks in one’s hand, and a watch that reads 30 MINUTES LATE on the other).

Yes, honoring a time commitment can mean self-sacrifice. That is what many artists do to create a masterpiece… they sacrifice time, sleep, and perhaps even coffee.

The act of being on time means one considers others above oneself. It is a non-tangible, but very meaningful way to express kindness, honor, respect, and love.

There seems to be an… shall we say… artistic and chaotic handful of humans that are not held to such trivial things as THE CLOCK.

But O.M.G.

I had a light bulb moment one time when talking to someone who does not hold to a time commitment as a virtue (read: shows up 15-30-60 minutes beyond the agreed-upon time… every. time.) (EVERY. TIME.). This individual complained about a person who was mad at her for being 30 minutes late. She perceived this person had “nothing else to do so what’s the big deal?”

Because I have no balls I was unable to shove a grandfather clock in her talking hole.

And we were on the phone.

What. Arrogance.

I don’t care if some really truly has nothing to do, it is THEIR time and they can do “nothing” if they want to… without the task of waiting sitting squarely on their shoulders.

My argument: doing nothing while doing nothing is one thing… and doing nothing while waiting for someone to pick you up is a whole other kind-of doing nothing.

IT IS. I don’t care how few or many kids they have or do not have.

The people who are perceived to have nothing to do must now:

– They wait… to hear the door.  

– They have to go the bathroom again.

– Their lipstick must be reapplied.

They could have slept an extra 30 minutes.

– Who really cares, it is THEIR time to waste/do nothing if they so choose.

I should be a lawyer, defending victims of chronic, extreme lateness.

*Disclosure: In this post I reveal a  rage… a certain rage that if anything kills me it will be due to a heart attack induced by waiting for a chronically late person. Or laundry. That might kill me, but I digress.

I am not talking about 5 minutes late. Everyone is 5 minutes late.

I am not talking about the unexpected crisis that changes the plan.

I am talking about the ever-growing number of PEOPLE THESE DAYS who genuinely feel it is no big deal to show up 15, 30, 60, even 90 minutes late to the party for every party, every volunteer commitment, every everything.

There is Fashionably Late, and then there is I Am More Important Than You Late.

I Am More Important Than You Late is when a person has built the reputation for being exceptionally, chronically late. Exceedingly late. ALWAYS late… To parties, to playdates, to meet-ups, to meetings, to volunteer, to dinners and lunches…

They are the ones you lie to about when a functions starts. They are the ones you don’t give important tasks to. They are the ones you put the food in the oven late so it won’t be cold when it’s time to serve a delicious, warm meal.. and they arrive 30 minutes after that.

You set your alarm clock on a day you didn’t need to to accommodate their schedule and… sure enough.

I tend to take such lateness as a personal attack, as if the person were actually saying the words, “MY TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU I WILL ARRIVE WHEN I SEE FIT”. But really, I think in most circumstances it is a matter of the person not realizing how their disregard of the importance of time affects everyone else. They may genuinely fail to see how exceeding and consistent lateness affects others.

Herefollows seven ways that the consistent and chronic late person affects the lives of people who work hard to honor their time commitments:

1) On Time People get less sleep. We still set our alarms to honor the agreed-upon time. Even if the rendezvous in the evening. It is entirely possible the On Time Person set his/her alarm hours earlier to make all the things of the day fit. Speaking from personal experience… I have set my alarm early countless times for late-day and evening commitments. I will grocery shop or get emails answered before the sun rises if it means I will be on time to something I committed to that is still 10 hours away.

2) On Time People often get put in a tough spot. We are not comfortable doing to others as has been done to us. When the Chronically Late Person is late, it is entirely possible their lateness has now become our lateness for someone else.

3) On Time People  waste money in the need to kill time. 

  • a) Buying coffee. We must calm the rage.
  • b) Buying snacks. We must calm the children. Because we are committed to on-timeness… we skipped grabbing a snack for the children before running out the door and hoped (never give up hope) the Chronically Late Person would be on time, hithertothusforely omitting the need to bring snacks. But you were very late and the children needed a little something.
  • c) We drive out of our way and burn gas because we’ll meet the Chronically Late Person in an alternate location in the hope the schedule of rest of the day/evening won’t be completely ransacked.

4) Our time gets wasted (see #3). If we think the Chronically Late Person will arrive at 10:00, we don’t start working on a new task/project. We don’t want to dig into a thoughtful email or organizational project or towel folding at 10 when someone is arriving at 10. Had we known 10 meant 10:30 we could have made good use of that time instead of making sure we heard the Chronically Late Person knocking at the door. The Chronically Late Person still might arrive at 10:15 but we really have no idea. Because the Chronically Late Person could also very well show up at 11.

5) We take it personally. Well, I do. I feel the Chronically Late Person feels their time is more important than my own. And it’s not. We all have full plates and time commitments to honor and when the Chronically Late Person is chronically, exceedingly late their clock and schedule is a domino effect on the day of the people they are late for. We miss swim lessons or have to do calendaring back flips (often leaning on the time and schedules of others). A Chronically Late Person has even beenandgry with me because their lateness meant I had to make decisions to take care of my own. The Chronically Late Person ended up missing an  important commitment because Mama had to do what Mama had to do (leave with needed belongings) and y’all… missed tutoring lessons ain’t free. Hitherhencetofore, #6…

6) The On Time Person feels like like they are the assholes. Many Chronically Late People tend to be some of the most laid back, “no big deal” kind-of people. And generous too. I want to be all, “Peace. Love. And No Big Deal” too! Frankly, I could stand to work more of that into my life. A lot more. But. Life is life and commitment is commitment and those who work to keep to their time commitments are not jerks for doing what they said they are going to do when they said they would do it.

The eventual #7… Eventually, we begin to stop caring about your time and despite strong internal urges, we become chronically, exceedingly late for you. To your parties. To your meetings. To the relationship.

We still do care about your time… Our clocks are big and loud. I believe it might be one of my love languages.

But it damages our relationship. It moves from an issue of timeliness into an issue of respect. And when a friend feels disrespected… that’s no fun in a friendship. Or any relationship.

Especially for those of us who tend to say nothing. See #6. The Chronically Late Person is so nice and giving and easygoing. They are the very last people anyone wants to confront. It’s like reprimanding a teddy bear.


Being on time… It’s an artistic act. Crafting the day (and even at times the days before) to show up when we say we will.

It’s an act of kindness… recognizing the effort it takes to show up. On. Time.

Being on time does take effort. And little says, “I care about you” more than effort.

Actions speak louder that words and all that.

To those who honor time commitments (within the 5 minute window of “things-happen”) (maybe even 10 if you have toddlers or animals… or LA traffic… or a string of bad karma…).

Being being chronically, exceedingly late is rude.

It’s selfish.

It is anti-art.

And it seems to be getting worse.

Maybe it’s the culture of convenience fed by mobile devices.

I don’t know.

But I am not a fan.

There. Now it’s out there. And I know I have a handful of IRL friends who may read this and become very paranoid I am writing about them. Please don’t. It’s bigger than that. Besides, anyone who should read this probably won’t because ironically, they don’t have the time.

On the other had… if you HAVE identified a pattern of lateness in your life – think about it. Are you 10 minutes late (ore more) to everything? If it’s a pattern, that should be easy to fix – start 10 minutes earlier. 30 minutes late to everything? Start 30 minute earlier.

Even I get THAT math.

30 minutes is a lot, I know. But someone is absorbing that time. If not you, then the person you are late for.

Think about it.

As for me in all this? I need to start speaking up. I need to find a way to communicate how the pebble of lateness is actually a boulder in my pond. *insert “ripple/tsunami effect” example here*

Yes, there are dogs that vomit, and children that drink syrup on carpets, and emergency calls from the school, the overflowing dishwasher, demanding boss, and urgent emails… However. If one’s lateness is chronic – I doubt your dishwasher is overflowing every day.

Just sayin’.

Disclosure: I am not perfect. I am not always on time. But I really, really try.

Hi, I'm Jenny :)

Hi, I'm Jenny 🙂

I'm on the spot!

Follow me…