Lateness on the Edge of Town

What’s on the iPod: Middle Brother by Middle Brother

It’s Friday already? I can’t believe it. I’ve no time for a weekend, but here it comes. I got a gig in two days ago that will have me busy through April, though I suspect I’ll have it done early. Also, I have an article due today and I’m still scrounging for one more good quote. No one’s talking, and it’s pissing me off.

Despite that, I’m still trying to get some conference marketing done. I had someone reach out via LinkedIn to set up a time to meet during the conference — someone I hadn’t yet contacted — so I spent an hour yesterday making my reservations for LA. Plus I’m trying to dig up work elsewhere because I’m looking at the monthly earnings goal now in hopes of surpassing it again.

John Soares had an interesting post up this week about punctuality and the freelance writer. John goes into a few reasons why we need to be on time for things, not just work-related, but in life. He outlines four great ways to improve your own punctuality, and it got me thinking about the late-comers in my own life.

The absentee friend. I love her no end, but she was always, always late. When she was in my wedding, I’d told her to be there 30 minutes before I actually needed her to be there. She was right on time as a result. Then there was the time she called at 9 am and said she’d be right over. Somewhere around 4:30, she showed up. I learned not to believe her pronouncements, and I passed her over a few times when I wanted to take someone with me to an event but needed someone who would actually show.

The absentee client. It ended badly, but not because she was late. But oh, was she ever late. She’d arrange conference calls, then never show up for them. Once or twice, sure. Twelve times or more? I’m not showing up, either. I would dial the number, put it on speaker phone and just work through the musical recording. After a few times, I simply let it go five minutes and hung up. She never once apologized. Worse — I had to remind her when she’d missed a call. Yes, I had to prod her to send checks too, which was the bigger issue.

The heel-dragger. We have a phrase around here: “Waiting for X…” because he’s always, always lagging behind, and it’s now learned behavior. The guilty one in question now expects us to remind him of his commitments, which doesn’t happen. So he misses plenty. Not that he notices, because he’s also a

Serial double-booker. One time I’d love to come to the top of this person’s list. Alas, his list is circular. I don’t think he knows what’s at the top of it. I’ve had other people in my life commit to something, then completely blow me off. It’s not just offensive, but it guarantees I won’t be asking again.

The chronic latecomer. There have been many, especially when I was a magazine editor. I got to know their lateness habits to the point where I knew what deadline to give them. Writer #1 got a deadline three days earlier than the actual deadline. Writer #2 had to have an extra week. Writer #3 was a wild card — if I didn’t really need the article that month, I would call him. Needless to say, he rarely got a call. Since I had to fill that blank space in the magazine myself a few times, I opted for writers who may not have been as compelling in their prose, but who showed up on time.

Have you had latecomers in your life? Who are they and what message do they send with their behavior?

About the author




  • Cathy Miller April 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I am a split personality when it comes to lateness. I am always on time, but I came to an epiphany about it in my personal life.

    I have a few friends (one in particular) who are ALWAYS late. I used to play the game of telling them to meet 30 minutes or more before the time we'd actually need to. Didn't work.

    But, in my life-changing shift to weigh emotions or responses to the amount of energy it takes, I decided to not sweat the personal stuff. The question was, do I want this person in my life or not? With my habitually late friend, the answer was yes so I ignored her lateness. I would sit in her living room and chat with her as she continued to get ready. I began to enjoy our chats.

    Now for the other side of my split personality. I cannot stand lateness in a business setting or relationship. I find it arrogant – communicating that your time is more important than others. Not to mention the time and money lost due to lateness.

    I have clients who are always late for calls or cancelling minutes before (or after the appointed time). While I do understand the pitfalls of meeting-itis in the corporate world that knocks everyone's schedule out of whack, a quick text or email is the polite thing to do.

  • Lori April 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Cathy, I think your split personality is a wonderful way to handle personal AND business. Makes me like you even more. πŸ™‚

    With my friend who was terminally late, I simply went on with my day and figured she'd show whenever she showed. I would dash out to the store and leave the door unlocked and a note on it — we were close enough that we'd just make ourselves at home in that way.

    I miss her. πŸ™ She's now three hundred miles away.

  • Devon Ellington April 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    In my opinion, lateness is a sign of disrespect. The late person is making it clear that his/her time is more valuable than yours.

    It isn't, boo.

    I discuss lateness with them, and my position on it; if punctuality is not respected, that individual is cut out, personally AND professionally.

    On a professional level, it's infuriating. On a personal level — I don't spend time with people who don't respect me, and chronic lateness is often a sign of a deeper problem in a relationship, of which a lack of respect is only one element.

    I don't tolerate disrespect.

    Since I started billing phone time, and double-billing booked calls where the other party doesn't show up, clients are much more careful about booking and being on time for calls.

  • Lori April 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    That can be true, Devon. However, I know people who are just plain unorganized. Personally and professionally. The client I had was just scattered in six directions. That's an issue for her, probably always, and I don't think she'll change because of who she is.

    In some cases, I do see it as a sign of disrespect. Not always, though. My dear friend, for example, is just unable to budget her time. Never could, even as a kid. I cut people a little slack when I realize their chronic lateness is more damaging to them than to me.

    Clients, however, are charged when I'm left waiting. It was one of the factors that eventually led to the client I mentioned and me parting ways. If I'm expected to be somewhere at her request, she'd better be there, too. Otherwise, she pays for my lost time. She did, too. Didn't change her behavior, but it made my having to wait much more tolerable.

  • Cathy Miller April 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Aw shucks, thanks, Lori. πŸ˜‰

  • Jake Poinier April 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I'm the product of a dad who was late for everything but his funeral (which, alas, came years too early) and a mom who is punctual to the point of OCD. As you point out, LW, dad was more scattered and disorganized than anything else.

    As you might imagine, I heard a lot of squabbling as a kid. Perhaps as a result, I try to split the difference, though I have to fight my paternal genes more than I like to admit. And I'm pretty forgiving of client who are a couple of minutes late — and yes, charging them for the time surely takes the sting out of it.

  • Paula April 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Jake probably has the most balanced take on the issue!

    I have a friend who intends to arrive at a stated time, but tends to get distracted by other things. At least she calls if she thinks she'll be late. (A couple months ago she shocked me by showing up exactly on time!)

    My former brother-in-law was always late. He lives in the moment and loses track of time. We started telling him to be places an hour early, and he was still late. He had no idea how disrespectful he was being.

    I can't stand it when people schedule an interview (sometimes after rescheduling it several times), then keep me waiting 10, 15, 20 minutes. My rule is: after 10 minutes I check in and ask if they need to reschedule. That usually prompts them to call.

    Cathy and Devon were right: chronic lateness is disrespectful. So is expecting people to drop everything and rework their schedule at the last second. Another friend of mine does that all the time. Not just with me, but with everyone. Everything has to suit her timetable. A few months ago she called after her workday was over (at 4:30) to see if I wanted to go someplace. I apologized, saying I was still working, on deadline, otherwise I would have gone, and thanked her for thinking of me. It happened again, about a month later. I told her that with a little advance warning, I can sometimes work things into my schedule, but last-second invitations are easy to accept. She's used to people catering to her whims, so it didn't go over well. Guess what? I don't really care.

  • Lori April 5, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Jake, you sure you're not seeing the insides of our house? πŸ™‚ I'm sickeningly punctual — it's almost OCD for me. I have to remind myself that the world will still spin if I'm a few minutes late. He's more of the "What's the hurry?" attitude, which is where the other party in this household received that same over-relaxed nature. πŸ™‚

    Paula, your former BIL was on Indian time. πŸ™‚ That's what my friends from India say — it's considered extremely rude in their culture to be right on time. As one friend said, if the invitation says 6 pm, you'd better not arrive before 7 pm.

    It can be disrespectful, I agree. I just don't think in every case it is. In some cases, it's just the inability to budget time. I will say in more than enough cases, it's just downright rude and insensitive. But if it's a client, I charge a toleration fee. πŸ™‚

  • Ashley April 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    A toleration fee! I love it πŸ™‚ I'm one of those people who often ends up being late because I underestimate the amount of time I need to arrive on time. Having another person to dress has actually helped me get better. I allow more time than I need these days.

  • Allie April 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    In my day-to-day life, I don't mind if people are late. But I don't know anyone who is perpetually hours late or anything. I am always on time everywhere, and it pains me to be late for anything. But I pride myself on being on time, because people know they can count on that!

  • Lori April 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    It's all in what we call it, Ashley. πŸ˜‰ I've noticed that the person in this house who's perpetually late now stands by grousing at his mate because she's not moving fast enough. Karma. LOL

    Allie, you're lucky! If you knew my dear friend, you may think differently. I did at the time, but now I realize that going about my business wasn't really waiting for her — it was doing my own thing and letting her do hers. Can't say it didn't drive me mad at times, but I accepted it as part of who she is. That said, I wasn't about to enable it – a few times I went on without her. You can't wait indefinitely.

  • EP April 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Oh yeah. Everbody has to deal with at least one heel-dragger like that. Why is that? I mean, how is it possible that these guys are everywhere? I think I know why but I'm lagging behind at the moment and I'll have to get back with you later on that one.

  • Lori April 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    LOL! EP, thanks for the laugh. πŸ™‚