“Time is what we want most but what we use worst.” ~ William Penn
“All the clocks are on real time,” I would tell my husband and son later that morning.
I had just adjusted the clock in my son’s room. His clock was the last remaining clock in the house that ran 10 minutes faster than what we affectionately call “real time.”
Real time and its cousin “fake time” were born, like all things, out of necessity.
My husband is perpetually late. God bless him, he’ll be late to his own funeral. It was an ongoing battle in our relationship. And once we had a child, it really began to matter. Not only did we need to be places at specific times, but also, our son is like me and would get really, emotionally, meltdown-level upset if we were late. So, I attempted to create an alternative time where every clock was 10 minutes fast in hopes it would fake my husband out so he’d be on time.
But the older my son grew and the more petulant my husband got, the more our 10-minutes-fast fake time lost its luster.
I’d shout a 30-minute warning, a 15-minute warning, a 10, and finally a 5, and then yell from the door: “Coat and shoes on—it’s time to go!” Mr. Delay would shout back from whatever thing he thought was more important, “Is that real time or fake time?” Busted.
He’d found the loophole in the system. Confusion reigned. We were still late getting everywhere.
Different cultures view timeliness in varying ways. Some hold being on time as a sign of respect and common courtesy. Growing up in the Midwest with German parents, I was taught that timeliness is a basic value. To be late is a sign of disrespect. It tells the other person that “My time is more valuable than yours. You can wait for me.”
My Tex-Mex husband, on the other hand, was raised by a Mexican mother who believes the party doesn’t start until she arrives. Neither she nor her son think they’re more important than who they are visiting, they just want to enjoy their coffee, their morning ritual, or whatever project they’re doing before they need to leave.
My people plan our mornings. The night before, I think, “If I need to be out the door at 7:30 a.m., I’ll wake up at 6:00 a.m., meditate, shower, journal, dress, and primp. At 6:45 a.m.: pack everyone’s lunch and make breakfast. 7:00 a.m.: eat family breakfast. 7:20: clean up, pack up, and put on shoes. 7:30: it’s go time.” Anal? Sure. Completely ingrained and impossible to unwire? Also yes.
My husband’s people get stressed out just hearing my timeline. “What’s the worry? It takes me 15 minutes to get ready.” Except that 15 minutes really means 45. The snooze option is simply more appealing than structure. And everyone else must do all the other chores while they only focus on themselves.
There are plenty of books written and studies done to explain why people are always late. One expert, Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again found that Mr. Delays, like my husband, tend to actually perceive time differently than us timely sorts.
In an interview with Huffington Post, DeLonzor said, “Yes, it’s a rude act, but I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and the vast majority of late people really dislike being late, they try to be on time, but this is something that has plagued them throughout their lives. Telling a chronic late person to be on time is like telling a dieter, ‘Don’t eat so much.’”
Okay, so if we can’t change them, what’s a timeliness-is-a-value person to do with a person stuck in their own time reality? I tried pushing all the clocks up to fake all of us out. Attempt failed.
In order to save my sanity and my marriage, I did develop a couple of techniques that have worked. This may be of benefit to any other time-keeper who finds themselves in a relationship with a time-waster.
Most of the world’s problems can be solved with communication. When we express that we’re not just being anal about the time, and that it’s actually a core value, it may help the other person understand. They may not be able to change, but they can appreciate why it is so hurtful and disrespectful to be late. Consequently, they may make a more concerted effort to be on time when something really matters, like a kindergarten graduation.
2. Be selective about which battles to fight.
Going to school, church, and the movies requires us to be there at set times, and there are consequences for being late: tardy slips, I-can’t-see-anything pew seats, and a sold-out show, respectively. Soccer practices, play-dates, and dinners with close friends aren’t worth the fight. It’s still embarrassing to show up late, but better than a blow-out that ruins everyone’s mood once we’re there. When something is really important, say so.
3. Let it go.
Listen to Elsa: “Just let it go.” My family is now known officially as the late family. Sure, it bothers me, but I live in the Northeast where being “fashionably late” is a real thing. My husband breezes in, gives his greetings, and picks up where everyone else is at. It’s not worth adding being late to the long list of other things we have to beat ourselves up about. We’ve got enough on that list already. It’s a mind shift to just roll with what can’t be changed.
4. Be courteous.
Being 15, 30, or 60 minutes late for the doctor, hairdresser, or a dinner reservation because we hit major traffic is pretty rude. In hindsight, yes, we should have given ourselves an extra 30 minutes, but we didn’t. No need to beat ourselves up and give 100 frazzled excuses when we do finally walk in the door. Just call ahead. This courtesy will most likely be enough to keep the appointment spot and/or someone from worrying.
5. Be willing leave the tardy-Marty behind.
If you’re lucky enough to have two cars or live in a city with mass transit, just tell the person to meet you there. And mean it. As with parenting children, it can’t be an empty threat. If it’s important to you to be on time and your partner is not getting it, just go without them.
No amount of crying, begging, pleading, or tricking will change a chronically late person. I’ve tried. What we can change is our reaction to it. It only hurts us when we let someone else’s consistent behavior upset us. It’s worth our sanity to find alternate ways to react to a loved one’s alternate time.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
Author: Tracy White
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Callie Rushton