As a rule, I’m an easy-going guy. Hardly anything gets my goat, ruffles my feathers or raises even a single hackle. I always try to put myself in the other fellow’s shoes, and am always prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt. There is only one area in which I give no quarter. If it were up to me, lack of punctuality would be a felony. And while I might not make it a capital crime, I wouldn’t think twice about tossing the terminally late in the cooler for 10 or 20 years; preferably in solitary confinement, so that they wouldn’t be distracted while mulling over their anti-social behavior.
Where punctuality is concerned, my motto is: Better half an hour early than 10 minutes late. They’re words I live by, and so should the rest of you.
When you live in Los Angeles, as I do, people are constantly arriving late and then using traffic as their excuse, as if they had no reason on earth to expect there might actually be other cars on the road. So, first they insult you by keeping you waiting, and then they follow up by insulting your intelligence. Do they imagine that I, who somehow managed to arrive on time, came by helicopter?
When my wife catches me fuming about these inconsiderate louts, she’ll invariably suggest I should always take along something to read. Being, like Professor Higgins, a very reasonable man, I point out that if I wanted to read, I’d have stayed home in my easy chair. Perhaps it’s a gender thing. Maybe women simply aren’t aware that when people keep you waiting, they might just as well spit in your eye. It’s their way of saying that they’re more important than you, and that you’re lucky they bothered showing up at all.
How do I know this? Easy. These same people are never late when they’re going to meet their boss or a potential employer or somebody from whom they want to borrow money.
Or take Marilyn Monroe. When she became a star, she was notorious for her tardiness. She would regularly keep an entire movie company standing around waiting for her to show up three or four hours late. People would rationalize her boorishness. They’d say she was nervous, even frightened, about facing the camera. So how was it that she was absolutely punctual during those years when she was still a starlet, with small roles in movies like “The Asphalt Jungle” and “All About Eve”? It was only when she became the 800-pound gorilla and couldn’t be fired that, all of a sudden, she developed this phobia where punctuality was concerned.
Recently, I was supposed to meet a guy for lunch at noon. By 12:15, I began to fret. Did he think we were supposed to get together at 12:30? By 12:40, I figured he’d gone to a different deli. If only I’d heeded my wife’s counsel and brought along some reading material, I could have made a decent dent in “War and Peace.”
When I got home, I phoned the guy. He said he’d forgotten. It seems that for some bizarre reason this fool keeps two appointment books. He’d made a notation in one, but not the other, and of course the other was the one he’d looked at that morning. That was bad enough, but what really floored me was his cavalier manner. Where was the note of hysteria in his voice? Where was the stammering apology? Where, at the very least, were the lies? It would have killed this yutz to tell me he’d rushed his wife to the hospital or his dog to the vet because one of them had choked on a chicken bone?!
The plain truth is that people who are late think they’re entitled to be late. And what exactly is it that makes these folks think they’re so special? Well, they must be, mustn’t they? After all, people are always waiting for them to show up.
Better late than never? I think not.