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.