I am really, really old-fashioned when it comes to being on time for anything. In the first place, I spent seven years in boarding school whose attention to time meant that second bell for morning roll-call rang at 7:02 am, and if you arrived even a few seconds after that time you were adjudged late, and got punished. (Note that it was 7:02 am, and not 7:00 or 7:05.) In the second instance, I have always worked in industries where time was measured in seconds or minutes, not hours or days, and deadlines were critical — hence the “dead” in deadline — so timeliness was not only important, but tardiness was expensive.
My motto is quite simple: “Five minutes early is on time”, and no matter where I’m coming from or how fraught the journey, I make every effort to make the 5-minute deadline. The corollary to the motto is that I get pissed when people are as little as a minute late, which makes me something of a tight-ass, and I’ve been thus called many, many times.
I don’t care.
As far as I’m concerned, by arriving late you’re telling the other person that his or her time isn’t important, or at least isn’t as important as your time, and that attitude is unbearably rude and inconsiderate. Don’t even ask me how I feel about “Mediterranean-” or “African Time”, where an appointed time is not even a “guideline” but wishful thinking. Likewise, I’ve walked away from doctors’ offices when I’m kept waiting for longer than half an hour — and when one doctor had the effrontery to bill me $70 for “breaking the appointment”, you can imagine his surprise when in return he got a bill from me for $250 (my rate for the hour-and-a-half I spent driving to his office, being ignored and driving home). The only excuse for lateness that I’ve ever accepted in a business situation is if the guy was talking to a client, or if the guy is the client.
So you can imagine my reaction to this little snippet, wherein a woman admits cheerfully that she’s always a few minutes late for social engagements, but always on time when it’s a business appointment — and is then astonished when she’s called a bunch of rude names by people who have the same standards as I have. Here’s a tip: if you know that you may be held up by traffic, or a family emergency (e.g. a full diaper belonging to a baby), then leave half an hour before you would otherwise do.
We’re always told that “time is money” by so-called efficiency experts. It isn’t. It’s worth a lot more than money. Time is the most precious resource on Earth, we each have only a finite amount of it, and when people waste my time through their careless and rude tardiness, I get so angry I have to be restrained from slipping the safety off the 1911.
And please: of course I make exceptions if someone had an actual car crash, or had to take their kid to the Emergency Room or some such situation. I’m not an unreasonable man. But outside those situations, it pisses me off that when I excoriate someone for their rudeness that somehow, I’m the bad guy for being so persnickety about time. Well, you’re fucking right I’m persnickety — and I’m going to get worse as I get older and time becomes all the more limited and precious.