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Other people’s lateness…



We are a punctual family. No exceptions. No weak links. One of our favourite activities is a an extremely early dawn outing to “catch worms”, a cheering phrase usually involving finding a breakfast location which needs to be big enough these days to take ten people. There is absolutely no scope for a late departure on such occasions.


The high priority we place on punctuality is nicely demonstrated by the story of when my sister in law offered a lift somewhere to my daughter. SIL needed to leave promptly at 9am. So she told my husband that daughter needed to be there at 8.45, expecting her to be a bit late. My husband passed on the message but to ensure D was on time, informed D she needed to be there by 8.30. D obviously built in her own contingency and made sure to arrive by 8.15. SIL nearly fell over when she opened the front door to see D when the rest of her household was still not yet downstairs.


We were all laughing about this and other stories recently, and then I suggested that maybe lateness is as much a character issue for the punctually committed as much as for the habitually tardy. Oh yes, they chorused, of course there may be a good explanation for lateness and you obviously can’t be annoyed by that!


I said I wasn’t thinking of excusable lateness. I was envisaging dealing with the frustration of regularly meeting or living with someone who is always late. If you are always annoyed by someone’s constant lateness, you could say it’s as much your issue as theirs. Your lack of patience or compassion and understanding for a start. Those moments of waiting for latecomers illuminate our own soul traits, and our experience of waiting can be transformed by choosing other more helpful responses.


The suggestion was met with silence. It must be a bit of a shock after years of intensive family punctuality training and rigorous practice to realise that always being on time is not evidence of all round perfection.


These days, I have found I am more than happy to wait for friends or queue for petrol or stand as the dog sniffs her way along a ten yard stretch. I’ve decided there are never enough pauses of quiet in my day. The lateness of others has become a welcome gift.

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