In Praise of Being Early for Everything

Have you ever noticed that every religion/ethnicity has its own definition of “time”? I’ve been told that black/Jewish/Indian/Italian/basically everyone time is a nice way of saying “late.” However, I am not on any of those times. I am on “early for everything, always” time. And I feel like a total fucking loser.

I’m on Deaf People Time. Both of my parents are hearing impaired, and in the deaf community there’s often a rush to get somewhere early so you can get a seat with a good vision line for the interpreter. I’m also Southern, and was taught that being late for things is not fashionable, just rude. But moving to New York made me the odd one out. I always bring a book, because even my most prompt friend will still get there five minutes after me. I’ve lied to habitually late friends about start dates of events so that they show up on time.

Why is it considered gauche to be on time? Being late – I don’t mean the occasional traffic jam/sick kid kinds of lateness, I mean the “always 30 minutes late for everything, no matter what” kind – is one of the ultimate rudenesses. Being constantly late is a way of saying “I value my time more than yours.” I’ve been the girl waiting alone at the bar feeling like an asshole way too many times to make someone else do the same thing. I understand that New Yorkers are perpetually overscheduled and in a hurry, but that makes time that I get to spend with a friend even more precious. If you only have an hour to spend with someone, being ten minutes late is cutting down that quality time together. I once was half an hour late to meet a freelancer – I’d written 6:30 down in my calendar when we’d actually agreed on 6:00. She was incredibly nice about the mixup because it was so out of character for me. People are much more willing to tolerate you being late if it only happens rarely. But when it becomes a regular occurrence, it feels like a slight – or an outright insult.

I’ve been called old-fashioned, pedantic, nerdy, and plenty of other epithets because of my chronic promptness. But if being old-fashioned means I value someone’s time enough to show up at an agreed-upon hour, then old-fashioned I am. You can call me anything you want, but you can never, ever call me late for dinner.

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    • Lizzy

      I’m also always early for everything. I’m early to class; I’m early to dinner; I’m early to parties; I don’t think I was ever early to work, but I was never a minute late, either. I think it has something to do with being raised by television. If I wanted to watch The Big Comfy Couch and it started at 10:30, I had to be sitting in front of the tv with the channel turned to PBS by 10:30.
      My friends, however, have largely never been early for anything in their lives. And we live in Middle of Nowhere, Midwest, so I can’t even figure out a good reason as to why/

    • Eileen

      I’m usually early, always on time – and my parents never needed to be near the interpreter, and I grew up in the North. I think it’s “fashionable” to be late because it implies that you’re important enough to have had somewhere better to be – which, of course, is incredibly rude, but so are most efforts to seem more important than we are.

    • sara s.

      Amen! I’m not religiously on time for absolutely everything (uh, work springs to mind), but I have found it useful to actually force myself to be extra late when I’m meeting people socially. I had a boyfriend who was surprised each and every time I didn’t leave him waiting for me for twenty minutes; it had literally never happened to him before. Women are way worse about this than men. WTF?

    • Nasher

      I reckon that, more disturbing than showing disrespect for those stuck waiting, lateness shows a massive lack of SELF respect, because those that run late know full well the kind of names, anger and hatred being directed at them by those waiting.
      It’s not that they don’t care what you think, it’s just that they already have a similar low opinion of themselves, and that you already shared that even before they were late.

    • Emily

      I agree with you and I have one friend that does as well. Surprise, surprise, that’s the friend I make plans with most often, because I know he’ll get there when I do!

    • Alejandra

      I’m always late. I have ADD which means that as hard as I try (and even though I take medication for it), I invariably get distracted checking email or watching a segment on the news or listening to something on the radio, or sometimes I jump on the wrong train or get so wrapped up in my book that I miss my stop, or I lose my keys or get lost and am always (always!) at least 10 minutes late…sometimes as much as an hour depending on the gravity of the distraction. I usually plan to be places earlier so that I can get there just a few minutes late. My friends all know me and have accepted me this way (fortunately my boss too, although it helps that I put in that extra time at night). Just a reminder that chronic lateness isn’t a cultural thing, and it isn’t an attempt to be fashionable or irresponsible or selfish; for some of us it really is a challenge based on the slightly different way our brain is wired.

      • Alejandra

        I should add, that I don’t have a problem with people being early or on time…that’s not nerdy or old fashioned to me. It’s just different from the way I am. (Although I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that arriving prior to the stated start time for a dinner or cocktail party actually is poor form; it always leads to catching the hostess running around with wet hair in a rush to get her make-up done.)

      • vn

        i think you are full of s*it, just be on time, you’ve allowed yourslf to have the medical wool pulled over your eyes and youve fed into that crap.

    • Lisa M.

      I definitely agree with the rudeness thing. I’ve sat in restaurants for 45 minutes waiting for friends. Add to the fact that, with my last group of friends, people frequently “forgot” things altogether, and I gave up. Sorry, people. I shouldn’t have to call you to remind you that you promised we’d get dinner to catch up, and it was a certain time.

      There’s a reason they’re ex-friends, and, I suspect, a reason that their friend-turnover rate is ridiculously high. Making new friends all the time is great, as long as it’s not because you’re losing all your old friends.

    • Tasha

      I only just read this and would like to say THANK YOU! I’m obsessively early for everything by at least 10 minutes. Even when I try to be on time I just end up in a panic, rush and am (as usual) early.

      No one else I know is like this, I’m always the one sitting in a bar with a book, pretending to check my phone, etc so it’s nice to know I’m not a total freak.