The Importance of Being Prompt

This past week, one day after work, I spent a while talking to my boss and I ended up leaving the office a few minutes later than usual. I then gave a girlfriend a ride home, and we were chit-chatting the whole way.

At 6:03 pm, when I was pulling into our underground, I received a phone call from my daughter, who was 3 floors up. “MOMMY. Where are you?! You are SO LATE! Are you okay? WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME.”

Jeez. The world is ending! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!

My own fault, really. I am chronically punctual. In fact, I’m not just punctual, I am EARLY. For everything. As the saying goes, you can’t be on time if you’re not early. One of my favourite lines ever from one of my favourite shows ever, Friday Night Lights, is: “Be here at 6 am sharp. 6 am sharp means QUARTER TIL SIX.” I’ll admit it – I swooned.

When I tell my kids a time that I’ll be home or meeting them, I give them the LATEST time I’ll be there. This time after work is 6 pm. I am unfailingly home 10-15 minutes before that. This was the one time in their lives that I was 90 seconds late. I was late picking them up one time before, but that was due to traffic, AND I called 30 minutes before I was expected to let them know I’d be late. It’s what you do.

I grew up like that, respect appointments, respect other people’s time. Both my parents were of the exact same thinking, and as a result, their 3 children are punctually consistent. We have 8 zillion faults, but we are on time.

My father was much more so. Going to the airport to catch a 10 am flight? We’d leave at 6 am. Why? Well, better early than late, AND you must always allow for traffic, or a flat tire, hail, locusts, whatever. My dad was ex-Navy. Ex-Chilean Navy. The Chilean navy is modeled on the British version. Time is a very big deal. Also a big deal? Bed making. I used to fastidiously make my bed as a kid, thrilled when I’d get to keep the quarter if it bounced off the sheets. That habit didn’t stick, and plus a quarter doesn’t go very far these days. It used to buy a pack of gum. I’m old.

Speaking of British, when I watched the Royal Wedding this year (not LIVE), when Wills arrived at the church when the SECOND struck that he was meant to be there, I thought: “He’s going to make a terrific husband.”

Anyway, you know how many times I was late for school? From grades Kindergarten to 12? ZERO. Let’s say there’s 280 school days a year, times that by 13, that’s a LOT. Of no lates.

People who are consistently late, I pretty much hate. That rhymes. I could continue. What rhymes with Nantucket?

When you’re late, whether it’s your intention or not, you are telling whomever’s waiting for you that their time is not as important as yours. You can be late, and they can just wait. Basically, as we say in Chile, you wipe your butts with their time. It makes me absolutely mental. It is not cute if you are late – it’s irresponsible and disrespectful. And people who always do this, were probably raised that way. Like with manners, when someone is late for everything, I blame the parents. I know for damn sure my parents raised me to respect time and other people’s time, and it stuck. Clearly, I’m passing this on to my kids, and they will thank me one day.

When you are on time, you’re demonstrating a very basic but undervalued respect – that you consider the other person to be at least as deserving of respect as you are. When I came upstairs that day, my daughter flung open the door and wrapped her arms around me – like she actually had thought the sky was falling. It reminded me how much they count on me and know that I do what I say and be where I say I’ll be when I say I’ll be. This time, it bit me in the ass. Never again!



  1. okay, I’ve been late a lot. I confess. I do try to be on time and often am but when I’m late, it’s usually because I’ve tried to do just one more thing before leaving. I never used to be that way as I used to leave at 6:15 for work and arrive at 6:45 (work started at 8). But working back east did something to me; I think it was my reaction to being one of the first if not the first person to arrive and then finding others straggling in.

    It’s not a case of disrespecting others (although I know it likely feels that way to them) so much as a “taking on too much and not being able to do everything”.

    It’s not a good excuse I know as it does punish the people who are on time. With the ferries I am having to make sure I’m on time as they simply won’t wait. Of course they are often late, then the buses are slow, so I have to schedule appointments quite a bit later than my arrival, simply so I won’t be late. And I have been on time quite a bit lately (actually early) so maybe it’s possible to cure it.

    Anyway, good points and I resolve to endeavour to try harder in future.


  2. You are so not from So Cal… I know of very few native So Cal residents that would notice 3 mins., heck I know of a few that wouldn’t notice 30 to 40 min time delay.


  3. My parents raised us the same way, and we did the same to our children – One is still chronically late (although is working on it) the other is the same – rather be there one hour early than 2 minutes late.


  4. I used to work with someone who was always late by 30 minutes to the 8:30am staff meetings, and when we asked him why he couldn’t be on time, he made some excuse like, “it takes me an hour to get up, eat, drive to work,” to which the rest of us stared in amazement. Finally someone said what we were all thinking: “why don’t you just get up half and hour earlier?” He had no answer, of course πŸ˜‰


    • When punctual people are late, we always have reasons, things out of our control. People who are always late have excuses. I think one of them is narcissism!! Grrrrr.

      Get up earlier! How simple πŸ™‚


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