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Getting there on time

The quality of being prompt, precise, or exact in regards to time

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When is it not a good time to be "on-time"?

  • May 25, 2009
  • by
Growing up, I was taught to be punctual.  Whether it be a doctor's appointment, a family bbq, a job interview, or arriving at the airport, it was always better to arrive on-time or perhaps even a little earlier rather than risk being late.  From a professional standpoint, this has always served me well.  Being punctual for work, interviews, or meetings reflects on one's character as being organized while also showing respect for others' time.  Even when I'd surf before work with @Mambino, our meet-up times were firm.  6:30am meet time meant in the parking lot and putting the wetsuit on by 6:30.  Not 6:40... not 6:31, but 6:30.  I remember one morning I was waiting in the lot for a scheduled 6:30 surf session, and at 6:28 I received a text message saying, "Running late - Be there in 4 minutes" (and true to the text, @Mambino pulled into the lot at 6:32).  Even a two minute delay warranted a preemptive explanation text.

All was well in my punctual world... I could catch all the trailers before a movie, I never missed a flight, and I'm rarely tempted to run a red light because I'm running late... until a recent event turned my world upside-down.

@babymama and I received an invitation for a Christening scheduled at 12:30.  True to [my] character, we arrived at the church around 12:15 (Google maps said it was about an hour's drive, so I left some room in case of unexpected traffic).  However, when we got there, there was already a service in progress at the church.  "No worries", I thought.    "We're just a little early, so they'll probably clear out by 12:30."  As 12:30 passed, a few more people arrived and exchanged confused glances as the service continued inside.  "Are we supposed to be in there?"  We searched around a bit for the invitors, but they could not be found.  By 1:15, the church had cleared out, and a few of us wandered into the church, unsure of where exactly we should be.  At 1:30, those who had invited us arrived, and a little after that, the service began.  Now while it is unlikely, it's entirely possible that those planning the ceremony do not recognize Daylight Savings, in which case, the event went off precisely on-time.

On the way home, I expressed my confusion to @babymama.  Since there was already a regularly scheduled event running until 1pm in the church, it was not possible the Christening was intended to start at 12:30 -- so why did the invitation say 12:30?  @babymama explained that for "Social Events", time is more of a recommendation.  "But if we had arrived at 1:30 and it actually started at 12:30, then we would have missed the ceremony", I pressed.  "That happens, sometimes", explained @babymama, "and then you just catch them at the reception.  You have to be willing to take those risks [by not being punctual]."  In this case, to the best of my understanding, the "12:30" time sent out on the invite was done EXPECTING people to come late, in which case they would still arrive for the actual event at 1:30.

For the next few hours (I'm sure to @babymama's frustration) I submitted several hypothetical situations to her to assess how she would handle different time scenarios.  "What if you're waiting for a movie to start, and it starts an hour late", "what if you're trying to meet a friend before catching a flight, and the friend is late", "what if you go to the airport and the plane took off an hour early"...etc... The consensus was if it was someone's "job" to be on-time (movie theater, airlines, etc), then she expects them to be punctual.  For social situations, all times should be interpreted with a very liberal "-ish" added to the end (example "noon-ish").

While this approach helps alleviate anxiety for punctuality for certain events, it does present a problem when trying to schedule several events in a day -- particularly when mixing "business" times with "social" times.  While I don't pretend to fully understand all the intricacies of "social punctuality", or if such a concept can even exist, I do feel better prepared to handle such anomalies when they occur.

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January 03, 2010
I've always felt that punctuality is simple courtesy and respect for the value of other people's lives and their time. In my book, there is NO situation in which it is acceptably to be "socially" late and there are precious few situations in which it is acceptable to be late at all without the courtesy of a phone call to the person who is waiting for you to arrive.
December 11, 2009
As my strict choir teacher taught me, "always an hour early, never a minute late".  Not that I've ever not been late before, but it's definitely something that I always keep in mind.  Great review, Andrew!
May 26, 2009
Great review and I am shocked and offended by the actions of your hosts. It lame to fake people out with event times and inexcusable to show up an hour after you invited people to be somewhere. Even more so to an event where people could have brought children. It is not like this is was a party where the early guests could hang out in comfort with food and beverages. If I was stuck waiting in a parking lot with my kids for an hour, I can assure you that we would not have made it to the actual event. I think you are showing way too much restraint.
May 25, 2009
I have to say, I've always been late to most meetings and appointments by a good 10 or 15 minutes. Then one day, something changed: I moved to California. After that, I was always early to most events. Hmm, magical!
May 25, 2009
I am impressed that you wrote such a funny piece on punctuality. kudos! I completely sympathize with you as I am a punctual person living in an (often) un-punctual world. If I cook dinner for friends, I tell them 30 minutes than I want them because in "Los Angeles Time" they will show up a little fashionably late. Also, when it comes to coming to a party, there are two rules of thumb I go by: If I am good friends with the host, I will arrive on time so I can entertain them as they sit in their apartment awaiting others to come. If the party is not for a close friend I will come an hour later (this is assuming it is an evening gathering that is supposed to start at 9pm...which will actually mean 10pm for everyone else). hope this helps :P
May 25, 2009
Oh TeamAWAC. It was an entertaining discussion about punctuality. It is interesting that in some situations I wouldn't even notice if people were tardy or events that were late in starting unless I was with you. I would see you cringe and fidget around, internally questioning why things haven't started yet. Such differences in our one world.
More Punctuality reviews
review by . October 21, 2009
As the other reviewer of this subject of puntuality, I have also been taught to be on time.  With that teaching, I have also expected others to respect my time by being on time.  Over the years, I have eliminated habitual violators of punctuality from my life, some close friends.  No matter how close friends they were, after hearing so many lame excuses, I have concluded they are simply taking our friendship for granted, hence not worthy of my friendship.      …
Quick Tip by . January 03, 2010
I am all for being punctual but for art and writings, it is a virtue for the mediocre.
About the reviewer
Andrew ()
Ranked #23
I'm a technology early adopter. I thoroughly enjoy geeking out with the latest hardware, software and electronics. I probably have as much fun setting up, tweaking, and configuring systems as I do actually … more
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The concept of punctuality reflects one's ability to consistently arrive to an appointment or event at or before the scheduled time of said appointment or event.
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Time, Time Management, Punctuality


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