In Mike Birbiglia’s most recent comedy special “Thank God for Jokes,” he perfectly articulates what on-time people honestly think about late people:
What late people don’t understand about us on-time people is that… we hate you. And the reason why we hate you is that it’s so easy to be on time — you just have to be early. And early lasts for hours. And on time lasts a second. And then you’re late forever.
But what Birbiglia doesn’t realise, as a chronically on-timer, is this:
Some of us completely do know how much you hate us. And we’re really f*cking sorry about it.
“It’s selfish,” one of my colleagues says. “Because it says you care more about yourself than the person affected by your lateness.”
“You’re a time thief,” another remarks. “You can never pay anyone back with time.”
“A one-off I can understand, but if it’s every time… I need you to get out of my life,” a third person concludes.
Holly Wainwright, Jacqueline Lunn and I fiercely argue about the politics of lateness on this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
The thing is, I completely agree with them.
It’s rude. It’s inconsiderate. It’s unacceptable. Yet I am precisely who they are talking about.
Being late is the quality I hate most about myself.
In Tim Urban’s viral article “Why I’m Always Late,” he writes, “I’m not late because I like to smell the roses, or because I can see the big picture, or because the future is full of infinite possibilities…
I’m late because I’m insane.”
Oh goodness, yes.
Urban argues that there are two distinct types of late people. The first don’t think it’s wrong/don’t feel bad about keeping people waiting. They are assholes. We can all agree on that. The second group feel terrible about it, and are stuck in a cycle of self-loathing. These people are, like Urban and I, legitimately insane.
So, on behalf of all people who are perpetually running late, here’s what we really want you to know.
1. We have no gauge of time.
You're already mad because I'm trying to make excuses and you just want to yell "LESS WRITING AND MORE GETTING PLACES ON TIME." But f*ck it I'm going to keep going.
If you locked me in a room for an hour and asked how long it had been, I would guess either three days or 11 minutes. I have absolutely no concept of time and I don't know why.
I suppose it's like spatial awareness. I'm constantly running into things, I can't reverse park, and I think that painting would look great on my wall but in actual fact it's bigger than my entire house. If I had to estimate the length of my desk, I'd say half a kilometre. I just don't know, because I'm the worst.
Everyday I assume it will take me 15 minutes to get ready, even though it takes closer to half an hour. I truly in my heart believe I can get anywhere in Sydney in 10 minutes, despite the indisputable fact that it takes me that long to get into the front seat of my car.
I'm ambitious and very hopeful I will make it on time - but no amount of idealism will get you somewhere at 4pm when you left at 4:05pm. None.
2. We rarely, if ever, think about time.
I have a friend who I swear treats time as a hobby. He likes it that much. He likes talking about time, thinking about time, determining how long something will take.
I could not give less of a shit about what time it is.
3. We have absolutely no idea what we were doing.
Like I literally have no idea what happened in the last three hours. I think I might have been stalking someone I don't know on Instagram but I can't be sure.
I need you to know that I definitely was not doing anything important. I didn't get lost in a task that is more important than you. I just think I might have had a stroke or carbon monoxide poisoning. I might have been talking to my dog for an entire afternoon. And then I experienced very severe anxiety when I looked at the time.
Did I mention I'm sorry?
4. We lack self-discipline and we very much wish we were more like you.
I have no self-discipline, which is a truly terrible personality trait.
I'm an awful procrastinator, I sleep in til 11am on weekends, and I always pay my bills at least a week late. These habits make life truly uncomfortable.
You can listen to the full episode of this week's Mamamia Out Loud, here. Post continues below.
Please understand that the lives of late people are chaotic and guilt-ridden. We get yelled at, and we know we deserve it. We pay an embarrassing amount of late fees. We hardly ever know what happens at the beginning of a movie. Do you know how confusing that is?
I'm constantly nervous sweating, all my tags are hanging out, my hair is never brushed and most of the time I only have one earring in. In addition to being rude, lateness is self-destructive.
Urban outlines the thought process of late people with cartoons that go as follows:
2:07pm: "But leaving on time makes sense for so many reas - but not THIS minute. The next minute!"
2:08pm: "Not THIS minute. The next minute!"
2:09pm: "Not THIS minute. The next minute!"
Until it's 2:27pm and panic sets in yelling "AHHHHHHHH" in your ear.
Simply, being late is not acceptable.
And some of us late people know that better than anyone.
What are your tips for becoming an on-time person?
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