Running Late (Thoughts on Tardiness and Dr. Phil)


I’ve never been one to be late. For anything.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been concerned with being on-time. To school. To work. To social engagements and doctor appointments. If I said I was going to be at a certain place at a certain time, I tried my damndest to make it happen.

I’d like to say that this was out of consideration to others, or out of respect to my employers and supervisors. I’d like to say that, but it’s simply not true. The truth is that, if I’m running late due to circumstances beyond my control, I experience a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s not even worrying about losing my job or something of that nature. It’s not about external consequences at all. It’s all internally directed.

Maybe one or both of my parents is responsible for this. Or maybe it’s just the way I’m wired. As far as pathologies go, it is at least a socially acceptable one. Bosses like employees who are on time. When I was a supervisor and was responsible for unlocking doors, both employees and customers appreciated it when I was on time. When you get a reputation for always being on-time, or, as in many cases, early, it’s also easier to be forgiven for those rare occasions when you can’t be.

I know from personal experience that not everyone feels this way about tardiness. I haven’t been anyone’s supervisor in years, but I still recall that it was a rare occasion when everyone was on-time for work. Some people even have the opposite problem: they are late every day. I had people who claimed that they couldn’t help it, that it was just the way they were wired. Since I have the opposite issue, I guess I can believe that some people are just basically wired to be late all the time.

When I was a supervisor, I still would terminate those late people if they couldn’t get their acts together. It wasn’t fair to the rest of the team. Or to me.

I remember hearing something on television years ago about people who are always late. I think it was on Dr. Phil, so consider the source before you quote me on this. What I remember this person who was probably Dr. Phil saying was that people who are late all the time are arrogant. By the law of averages, you would be on-time at least part of the time. By being late all the time, you are doing, or not doing, something that ensures you will be late, without consideration for the others affected by your tardiness. In short, you are thinking more about yourself than others, placing your needs above others, implying that you are more important than others, which is the textbook definition of arrogance.

I’ve noted that people who have a problem being on time tend to disagree with this statement.

I’m not arrogant, they might say. I don’t think I’m better than other people. I just have organization issues . . . or, you know the way traffic is, you’re going to be late occasionally . . . or—

Or, some other excuse. Chronic lateness (as opposed to true “occasional” lateness) represents that a person has made a choice that ensures they will be late. You make allowances for traffic and weather and the like. It’s what adults do.

Of course, I’ve already pointed out that I seem psychologically unable to be late. I may have a personal bias.

I’ve been thinking about this all morning because I had to drive my wife to a doctor’s appointment at 8 o’clock this morning. We were one minute late.

By the way, it wasn’t my fault.

Did that sound arrogant to you?


2 thoughts on “Running Late (Thoughts on Tardiness and Dr. Phil)

  1. I find people who are always late incredibly rude. Particularly people you have a standard meeting with and they late week after week and leave you waiting. It feels to me like they believe their work and time is more important than mine. However, each week I listen to the same old ‘something came up’, or ‘it’s been so busy’ excuses, meanwhile I now always take something to work on in the meeting room and don’t stop just because they arrive. They can wait until I find a good resting point after making me wait for them in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

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