Waiters and Laters

The world can be divided in many ways. Between those that have manners and those that don’t.  The fat and the thin. Between those you like and those you don’t. Between the honest and dishonest.The mean and the  generous. And between laters and waiters.

Between those who would prefer to wait half an hour for a train than five minutes. Those who are always on time. And those who always like to run onto the platform as the station master blows his whistle and are always late for whatever  occasion be it business or pleasure.

Me  I have a nervous breakdown unless I am at least two hours early for a plane, I regularly get to the station so early I  can catch the train before, I am always on time. I have to start walking  because I cant stand waiting for  Vivien to finish some  suddenly vital  household chore  before  we are going out. Actually on the whole she too is a waiter.

But what about these laters. I have a friend who I have been having lunch with over twenty years. He  is always late. Now one can get  chippy about this and say that those who keep you waiting are  basically saying their time is more important than yours. There is research that shows that CEOs are late for 60% of their meetings. Arabs paying high fees to Western professionals seem to take a particular delight in making that point. And of course any behaviour that is not punished goes unchecked. As long as I am prepared to put up with my pal’s lateness he will be late. Why not, he knows I will always be on time, so why should he care?

There are some who like the  whole drama of being late, being the centre of attention, asking for forgiveness and thrive on the identity of being  such a person. After all the  whole Latin personality is based on manyana. In  Argentina and Nepal being on time is called  keeping English time.(those where the days) Mussolini was famous because he made the trains run on time.

 

But psychologists, as they do, go a bit deeper. Lateness and remember some people are habitually late for planes and trains  and miss them can also be the result of optimism and  of course  uber confidence. Thinking that they can do two or three things just before they go, not needing a safety cushion, and then not being able to adjust  when the time scale starts to slip. But these people are punished for missing trains etc.

 And  we know that those people who are always socially late are not quite so addicted to being late for planes. So the punishment of timetables has an effect which mild social disapproval does not. Though funnily enough  at least one person I know is consistent, not least because  she has learnt that just as people invariably forgive her  so trains and planes are often delayed and when you arrive  just as the gates are closing people can be awfully accommodating. So the world can also be divided into those that play the system to the wire, and those that are the system.

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