It’s time we had a conversation about lateness.
Because, as someone who’s spent much of my life running late to things, I want all the people who’ve spent time waiting for me at a cafe, or restaurant, or wedding, that while it is my fault it’s not because I’m a terrible person.
It’s generally agreed by punctual people that people who are late are the worst: we’re rude, inconsiderate, selfish. Being late means you might not get hired, promoted, or even become someone’s real friend. We’re bad friends, bad colleagues, and terrible husbands/wives.
There are lots of reasons different people are late, in my case I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a kid, or “red cordialosis” as some call it. As an adult you learn to manage the quirks of being ADD but a casual relationship to time is one of those things that sticks.
My ADD definitely plays a big role in my lateness because the first rule of ADD club is “Wow, look, a bird”. In the words of ADDitude (yes, that’s its name, a name was clearly come with way after a deadline had passed if ever there was one). “Some experts think that ADHDers perceive time not as a sequence but as a diffuse collection of events that are viscerally connected to the people, activities, and emotions involved in them. ADHDers don’t see events; they “feel” them.”
Yep, to put it another way, when I’m late it’s not because I’ve made a cost benefit analysis and decided my time is worth more than yours. That’s approaching time like a banker. I don’t approach time like a banker. I approach time like a dog. I’m vaguely aware that it’s happening but i’m much more aware that I can smell bacon and it smells good.
So to help you understand here are 7 of the reasons i’m usually late.
1. I believe in myself.
It’s a universal moniker for self help gurus but lots of people who are late are genuinely quite optimistic, overly optimistic about how effectively they judge time. I genuinely do think that taking a shower, getting dressed, having breakfast, and getting to the tram stop can be done within approximately 10 minutes if it must, even though it never has and never will.
2. I believe other people are pretty great.
And a little thing like being a few minutes late wouldn’t matter. And it usually doesn’t, but i’m not good at adjusting my routine of not having much of a routine for those events that are super important.
3. Facebook showed me a list of actors who’d married ugly people and I wanted to check whether I looked like any of the ugly people. I then had to have a shower because I felt unclean for looking at the article.
4. I saw some amazing shoes that I needed to buy.
5. A cat was following me and I was worried about whether it was going to get lost.
6. I got into a conversation with someone on the tram about Back to the Future (they were going to a themed party and the background story is quite amazing, like did you know that the Doc was going to have a pet monkey? And the name of the film might have been ‘Spaceman from Pluto’?) and missed my stop… by several stops.
7. I’ve turned procrastination into such an art that I’m pretty sure I could get a grant for it, if I could only get around to it.
So what are the solutions? The easiest way of leaving Late Club is to marry a member of Overly Punctual Club and hope that when your powers combine you’ll arrive on time. One trick is the good old “put the event in your phone half an hour earlier than it actually is”, which is great until that once in a blue moon when I arrive early, and my friend arrives late, giving me an hour of looking cool by myself time.
Of course not all people who are late have ADD, and lateness is still a serious problem, but before you get angry at a colleague or friend for being late, don’t presume they’re terrible people. They probably love you and feel just as bad that they made you wait as you did. Put yourself in THEIR shoes. While you’re tapping your feet impatiently, they’re jogging to catch their train.
While most of society runs according to the rules you’re able to fit in with, they’re often falling foul of them often, as in the case of people with ADD, because they can’t help it. So use the extra time you have to grab a drink in advance for each of you and catch up on Mamamia’s latest summary of the Bachelorette instead of getting angry. We’ll all be happier.
Editor’s note: yes, this piece was received after deadline.