When Better Late Than Never Is Not Okay


I had a meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the city last night. It was an parent orientation for a trip J will be taking in a few weeks, and according to the reminder email we were to arrive early because there was a security protocol through which we had to pass on the way into the building.

In order for me to have enough time to (potentially) sit in rush hour traffic and then park and then arrive a few minutes early to an activity in the city that begins at 6:00, I know I need to leave my western suburban driveway no later than 4:00.

I did that yesterday, and I arrived before 5:45. I checked in downstairs and took the elevator up to the conference room where the meeting would be held. I had no clue how many people were expected but by 6:00 the room seemed to be filling up pretty well.

At 6:00 the orientation leader said that we were going to wait ten minutes or so before starting because people were still arriving downstairs and going through security. She didn’t begin until 6:15.

This kind of thing infuriates me.

It seems to be how things go these days. People are late all the time. It happened even after we received that email asking that we arrive early. I realize that she was trying to be nice and give the latecomers every opportunity to catch as much information as they could. But what about those of us who planned our evening around arriving when we were asked to arrive? She should have started on time.

Whenever this happens, I feel like I’m being punished. My issue with others’ lateness is two-fold. First, time is very important to me. Ask those who know me the best: I am capable of scheduling just about anything down to the minute because I hate wasting time. Actually, it’s both that I hate wasting time and I love making the most of time. Second, when someone’s tardiness affects others it’s just plain rude and disrespectful, full stop.

(I know that in the case of a city activity, working until a certain time and then having to experience rush hour traffic is a bad combination, but there were more than just a few people casually rolling in late.)

One woman who came in late took some time during the Q & A session at the end of the meeting to ask about two things that had been covered in depth before she arrived, so not only did those of us who were on time have to sit and wait fifteen minutes longer for the meeting to begin, but we also had to hear some information twice. So annoying.

I will pause for a moment to say that obviously this is my blog and this is my opinion. I’m certainly not perfect (not by a long shot!) and I know for a fact that I do things all the time that make others want to scratch my eyes out. That said, lateness is one of my biggest pet peeves in life, so I’m writing about it.

There was a little discussion on Facebook last night when I posted about the late start. I have a couple of friends who explained that they’re always late and described their routines. (By the way, I have no personal beef with these friends and I’m laughing thinking about their faces as they read this but I’m only using them as an example.)

I still don’t get it. I believe that people who are chronically late somehow rationalize that they’re actually on time by their own standards, like, “Whew, usually I’m twenty minutes late but today I was only fifteen minutes late so I did really well!” If that lateness affected someone else, it’s rude. If it only affected you—I don’t know, late for a workout? Late for something that starts whether you’re there or not?—I have no problem with it.

I also realize that sometimes things that are out of our control happen to cause us to be late. I’m not talking about those circumstances.

I believe that in this digital age when we have more tools available than ever whose primary existence is to help us stay organized (and on time), lateness shouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is. I realize I’m taking a hard line here. What do you think about tardiness? Let’s discuss it.


  • Heidi BK Sloss

    First of all let me say that I am on time 95+% of the time. I have to work at it because I have a hard time conceptualizing time. I don’t “get” the passage of time. 1 hour usually feels the same as several hours to me. Same with 1 week and several weeks. I just don’t get it, so I have to work very hard in order to be on time. Second of all, the majority of interesting (to me) women friends I have are chronically late. Some by 15 to 20 minutes, some even longer. I don’t understand why they are this way, but since most are I usually bring my tablet and read while waiting. It is what I do. And on the rare occasion when my friends show up on time, I have to admit to feeling disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to read before we hang out!

  • Paula @ Frosted Fingers

    I agree with you 100%! I was raised that early is on time and on time is late. I married someone who is constantly running late which drives me insane. I have 4 kids 10 and under….if I can get my family there early or on time, there’s no excuse! Plan for traffic, plan for pee breaks, plan…. I’m not saying we haven’t shown up late but you can bet that when we do I’m just as pissed off as if I’m waiting for someone that is late. I hate it. A few years ago at Christmas my sister in law showed up 3.5 HOURS late. So imagine me trying to hold food and having it dry out and the kids asking where their cousins are every 5 minutes and them just wanting to play and open presents. I could go on forever so I’ll stop. 🙂

    • Melisa Wells

      Heidi: LOL re: being disappointed when you don’t have extra reading time!

      Paula: “Early is on time and on time is late.” YES. Also I hope you have stopped waiting for your sister-in-law. So rude. Gah.

  • MrsTDJ

    I’m so happy you already love me because ……uh……um…..I’m late about 70% of the time. 🙁 I’m not proud of it, but it’s a fact. In my defense, I used to be on time 95% of the time, but my late husband was chronically late. Over the years, one of my big marriage/peace concessions, was to NOT bug out about lateness. It caused us much frustration in the early years and I simply had to let it go. We were always on time to weddings, graduations, etc but for most other things? Not really. I worked really hard to understand the issue. Her’s what I figured out – he never had a conscious, malicious intent to waste the time of others; rather it was a matter of a cluelessness and total underestimation of how long EVERYTHING took. I’m working on returning to my timely ways, but it’s been hard after releasing it for so many years.

    • Melisa Wells

      Taya: Yes, I totally love you to pieces so no worries. LOL!
      I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for me if Jim were unconcerned with timeliness (thank goodness he and I are on the same page) and totally get how you had to kind of throw in the towel there for the sake of peace and less anxiety. Sending you supportive, timely vibes as you get back to your former sense of punctuality! 🙂

  • Sylvia Joy

    I agree but sometimes people just don’t care if they are on time or not. (I hate saying this sentence.) But in my day a lot of things were so different. It is to bad 50% of the things that go on have to change. Being on time is a problem and that should not change, you should be on time or early to appointment.