Mob Rule: Belatedly Yours

Here’s a question I’ve been carrying around in my head for months. I’ve been meaning to send it to The Ethicist, but since it’s been a while since I’ve opened comments on a post (and you guys are clearly in search of a thread to brawl in) I guess I’ll just toss it out here.

Dear Teh Intire NetarWeb:

Say you have a friend with a glaring character flaw, something that drives you crazy. Tardiness, for example. Always shows up late for everything, and walks in the door making excuses. "Lost my car keys. Google maps was wrong. Couldn't find parking," et cetera, and so forth.

So one day you are meeting your friend for a movie. And, as always, he shows up late. Late enough that you're certain to get the crappiest seats in the house--somewhere in the first row, no doubt.

"Traffic was terrible," he says as he arrives, to forestall your objections. But this is the final straw. You read him the riot act, call him to the carpet, tear him a new asshole--pick your favorite cliche. "Why do you keep doing this?!" you yell. "It's just as easy to be consistently on time as it is to be consistently 20 minutes late!!*" He, of course, keeps insisting that it's not his fault, but you'll hear none of it.

(* I actually hollered this at a friend once...)

Well, it's worse than you imagined: 28 Weeks Later is totally sold out by the time you get to the boxoffice, and you have to go see another movie instead.

Afterwards you decide to go to a bar together--not because you are friends again (you're both still totally pissed), but because you made the mistake of seeing Georgia Rule and now have no choice but to consume enough alcohol to retroactively blackout the entire evening. While you sit there silently fuming in T. J. McDrinkies, pounding greyhounds, the local 10 o'clock news comes on. Top story: a semi jackknifed on I-5 a few hours ago, bringing traffic to a virtual standstill.

Your friends looks at you expectantly. Do you apologize?

Curious,
Matthew

P.s. to those using the comments to offer me advice on dealing with my “friend”: this really is a purely hypothetical situation–one that occurred to me last week when I was caught in a traffic jam and showed up late to a movie.

* * *

50 comments.

  1. No apology. A not-very-polite, “…And the other 400 times?” would be all he’d get.

    I hate lateness. It’s a sign of self-centeredness and lack of respect for others.

  2. Amen Bikeboy.

  3. Well, you kind of set yourself up with the whole riot act rather than constructively addressing the problem at the point it became a problem 300 times ago. So, you could take the opportunity of apologizing and clearing the air in this situation to create a door to addressing the larger situation–why does he feel like he does not have adequate control over his circumstances to generally live up to his promises? It is a character flaw.

  4. See, if you’d just learned the art of the useful, harmless lie, you’d never have been in the situation. Because my best friend? Is always late. Reprehensibly late. But I got smart. I lied to her about everything: what time the movie starts, what time the party starts, what time the dinner reservations are, etc. I just moved the world about 30 minutes up, and she was always on time.

    How much do you value the friendship? Apologies don’t cost much. I’d apologize.

  5. Hem, this is when I grumble, suggest that People Nowadays have Cellular Telephones and can call me if something comes up.

    I also consider the magic -30 minutes rule (as stated by kaleigh).

  6. I completly disagree with Kaleigh and Christina about the 30 minute rule. You shouldn’t have to babysit an adult to the point of lying to them in order for them to show up “on time”.
    My suggestion: Make plans with that person again. When they don’t show up within 10 minutes of the agreed upon time, leave. When they call you and ask why you left, explain to them that you can’t sit around all day waiting for them and since they didn’t call, you just figured they forgot. Make plans again the next week and repeat the same plan. Eventually they’ll learn that if they want to make plans with you they need to call or show up on time.
    That’s how I handled the a simular situation years ago. My friend still shows up late to everything, except when the plans include me…then he shows up on time, every time.

  7. This would be a very good AskMe post.

    Also, I agree with Bikeboy.

  8. The real question for the Ethicist is why were you going to the movies with my girlfriend?

  9. I am The Late Guy – not Matt’s, but the one in my social circle. I too always have an excuse – though I have the decency not to tell people it, because I realise everyone has things that would have made them late if they hadn’t allowed time for them.

    I’m late because I don’t hurry. If I have to catch a flight I’m always exactly on time, but hanging out with friends shouldn’t involve rushing to make sure I’m there precisely on the hour. If it does, it becomes a chore, and I’d just as soon not do it at all. Weekends are for relaxing.

    I’d never expect anyone to wait for me outside a cinema if I was late to meet them, though. Go in, I’ll get shitty seats if I’m late. And if it’s something that might sell out and I’m /still/ late, I’ll miss out. That bothers me – and any human – a lot less than causing a friend to miss out too on my behalf.

  10. I’m with both Bikeboy and Paul James on this. I’ve done the same sort of thing with a perpetually late friend and guess what? She was somehow able to make it to everything on time.

    We also had a frank conversation about the fact that we value time differently and agreed that neither view is wrong but it is her loss if she is late for something that does have a time requirement attached to it.

  11. HELL NO

    One incident of having a vaguely valid excuse does not in any way reduce, let alone negate, the validity of your frustration with his perpetual tardiness.

  12. HELL NO

    One incident of having a vaguely valid excuse does not in any way reduce, let alone negate, the validity of your frustration with his perpetual tardiness.

  13. I have found that the consistently late have two remarkable traits: they always have an excuse (as noted in Matthew’s post), and they will pull your lungs out through your back if you ever keep them waiting.
    Paul James is right. I had to learn his approach the hard way, but it does work.

  14. I’m that guy — I’m *always* 5 to 15 minutes behind. I get caught up in what I’m doing, forget that I have to do several things before I have to go, fail to account for travel time/traffic/finding my keys, find an awesome web link when I should be shaving, forget the directions… I could go on. I know it’s frustrating, and I know most people don’t have trouble being on time. Left to my own devices, however, I just don’t have the combination of executive functioning, time sense and external structure to make this simple thing work. It sounds like a copout, but I also know that most people don’t have to set an alarm to remind them to eat lunch.

    In the absence of a revolutionary transformation in my personality and brain chemistry, what can I do? I
    1) try hard to be on time
    2) let people know that surprise, I’m going to be late
    3) tell my friends not to wait for me unless I call and expressly ask them to
    4) don’t mind if they tell me an artificially early time, or call to make sure I’m getting ready/have left
    5) try not to offer BS excuses when I’m late.

    So, with all that said: this guy ALWAYS SHOWS UP LATE, and HE’S YOUR FRIEND. You know this. It’s happened before and it will happen again. You’re not meeting this guy for the first time. If being his friend is worth the frustration, just accept the fact that he’ll be late again and instead figure out how you and he can make it less annoying for you when something that you /both agree is inevitable/ happens.

    Make plans to meet at a coffee shop first and then go to the movie. Buy tickets in advance and let him know his will be at the kiosk. Pick him up on the way. Don’t go to movies together, go to the museum instead. Call or IM him 20 minutes before he should leave and ask him if he knows where his shoes and keys are, has the directions printed out, has allowed for traffic time and is going to leave on time. Lie to him about when the movie starts. Find a theater with two showings 30 minutes apart (and head for the earlier one). Or just assume that it’s part of the adventure of being his friend, and if you miss the movie you’ll head to Dave&Busters instead.

    A note about #5 (no BS excuses): I’m not very good about this yet, and it sounds like your friend isn’t either. Ironically, shame over being late often used to make me dither getting ready and therefore become even tardier. The next time he offers an excuse (or a real one), tell him not to apologize for being late but instead help find a way to make things less frustrating for you when he is late. With punctuality apparently out of reach, concentrate on accountability instead.

    (PS: you don’t have to apologize for getting angry. This time it was the traffic, but it’s always something.)

  15. One of my best friends does this exact same thing, and I’ve really had it up to *here*.

    (points to a spot in the air three feet above her head)

    I’ve tried the magical 30 minutes, the sincere talk, the meltdown, the leaving the venue ten minutes after the expected time. She always has excuses; after a few years I stopped listening to them entirely. This inattention on my part irritates me on another level, because it makes me feel that her behavior has forced me into being a less caring friend. Even when she has a legitimate crisis going on in her life I only shrug my shoulders and walk away. Bikeboy called serial lateness for what it was: a lack of respect for others. There’s being ten or fifteen minutes late on lazy weekends, a la Tom’s example, and then there’s thirty to a hour.

    So I guess when you find a good solution to this problem, I’ll try it too. Meanwhile, don’t apologize.

  16. Now that I’ve re-read my post I can see that we’re probably not best friends at all. *sigh*

  17. Yes. You apologize for your rude outburst, but then this is the time to tell him in your now rational state of mind that his lateness really irritates you. And perhaps suggest the least he could do is call and let you know. He has no excuse for being late the other times and he also has zero credibility in legitimate reasons for being late. But outbursts of frustration are usually never worth it.

  18. Yes. You apologize for your rude outburst, but then this is the time to tell him in your now rational state of mind that his lateness really irritates you. And perhaps suggest the least he could do is call and let you know. He has no excuse for being late the other times and he also has zero credibility in legitimate reasons for being late. But outbursts of frustration are usually never worth it.

  19. Do you also know people who walk behind you at the exact pace you’re walking but 5 feet back? Same thing: passive aggressive. Either that or chronically flatulent.

  20. Most of the time, I am the on-time person waiting for late friends, but I have to say, reading this post, that I was reminded of one relationship in which I am almost always late. I have one friend, who, when we both lived in Manhattan, always had the restaurant that he wanted to go to – I’m the kind of person who goes to the same five places I like for ten years, and I appreciate this friend’s talents for getting me out of that box. BUT – he lived on the upper west side of Manhattan and I lived on the upper east side. He favored hip joints that generally were on the lower west side, whereas when I wasn’t hanging out with him I preferred the dives on the lower east side. The quirk of the Manhattan public transportation system is that there are trains that go from the upper west to the lower east side, but there are no trains that go from the upper east side to the lower west side. As a result, I was ALWAYS late meeting my friend at his restaurant picks. I know that I should have allowed more travel time, but I was in deep denial about the fact that it took at least an hour to go somewhere in my own borough. The fact that I was one of the latest adopters of cell phone technology didn’t help my case.

    I’m sure that’s not the problem in this case, but you should look at whether you always choose the venue, because that could be a factor….

  21. I’m the kind of person who is always early because I freakin’ hate waiting and I don’t want to put others in that position. Also, I have midwestern parents. I would not apologize because consistent lateness is rude. But knowing that my friend is Latey McLatealot I would give a time thirty minutes earlier than the time I actually needed him to be there. I would routinely plan on picking people up at their house giving enough time for them to finish getting ready. I would call and make sure they’re headed out the door.

    In the end it’s a negotiation between what’s going to annoy you more–riding their ass or dealing with lateness. If neither are acceptable in the end, then I get other friends who respect my time.

    But again, it’s like crying wolf. Someone who is late all the time should feel stupid making excuses and expect people not to believe him even if the excuse is valid this particular time. No apology.

  22. Sure, and buy him a gift to apologize:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0689874332

  23. I would say, “Mike, I was wrong. Totally wrong.”
    And don’t schedule things that are time-dependent with that particular friend.

  24. apologise… sheepishly :D

  25. I’m with Paul James. I’d never be in this situation, because I don’t allow people to jerk me around like that. I absolutely cannot *stand* waiting for people. Either someone enjoys being with me and is considerate of my time, or I ditch them after two or three chances and move on to someone who does have that basic respect. I read chronic lateness as a sign that someone is “just not that in to me.” That’s fine–it’s easy enough to move on and find people who do enjoy being with me enough to not play stupid games.

    I wonder what happens when chronically late people make friends with each other? Do they just never see each other? I guess I resent the burden. There are plenty of things in my life that could distract me from being on time, and I hate keeping track of time too, but friendship is worth showing up for. Why should it always be on *my* shoulders to cope with their problem? It’s as bad as if someone always showed up with no money, mooched off of you, then failed to pay you back. Why bother with them?

  26. I’ve got one of them kinds of pals. He picked me up late to go to the Texas v. Colorado football game two years ago, and I’ve never forgiven him. Then out of the blue, he called me to tell me he’s really learned a lot about himself and the rackets he’s been running on his friends and apologized.

    In case you don’t recognize the jargon, he was really calling to recruit me into a Landmark Forum. Those folks is creepy.

  27. My wife is always late. I finally decided that, at least in her case, it’s not always because she is being disrespectful. She genuinely sucks at estimating how long it will take to get somewhere. She doesn’t dawdle around when she’s getting ready to go somewhere, always moving fairly briskly, but always late once she’s ready to go.

    A couple of years ago, we were going to meet my in-laws at a restaurant and my brother-in-law and his wife were to meet us as well. You know, nice restaurant, even had a reservation. A SPECIFIC TIME TO BE THERE! All three couples were late and all three husbands were pissed at their wives because of it. What is it with you broads?

  28. I was stuck in that same exact traffic jam on I-5 and sat there wondering if my friends would believe my tardy excuse. I think you can apologize for the incident but not the sentiment.

  29. You apologize, and then make a reference to The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or in this case, The Boy Who Always Came Late. Just because he is correct once doesn’t mean he’s always correct.

    In my own life, I simply don’t do anything with people who are consistently late (or rude, or racist, etc, and that last one really only gets one pass if that), so best simply not to go to movies or other events where time is critical with them.

    If you think your friend is bad, try going to a movie in Hawaii. We got into the *car* with my in-laws at the start time for the movie…

  30. I’d apologize for blowing up at him, and then tell him that this is something that really frustrates me about the relationship, to the point where you don’t hang out with them/don’t want to be their friend because of it, or whatever.

    Re: The larger lateness issue — I’m a bit of fence straddler on this one. My family is always late everywhere, and that was my habit until I left for college and it was pissing off my friends. I’m still late occassionally, though I try to be good about being on time.

    Reading this thread, though, makes it seem like the on-time people believe the late peeps are sitting at home, going, “Eh, I’ll just watch this one more Seinfeld re-run before I go. X can get a drink while she’s waiting.” In my experience, that’s never it. The late peeps are thinking to themselves, “okay, I’ll just jump in the shower, thow on some clothes, and I drive there in 15 minutes.” Total estimated time: half-hour. Actual time to perform said activities: 45 minutes, once you count 15 minutes for the shower, finding your wallet, parking…

    I would say most congenitally late people simply consistently underestimate how long it will take them to do stuff. And I know you on-time folk will just say, “Get better at it, then.” It’s a good point. I just wish to stick up for my fellow late (and those in lateness recovery) and say we’re not deliberately trying to dick you over because we don’t care about your feelings.

  31. Perhaps instead of judging, then condemning all your late friends as self-centered, disrespectful jerks, you could assume that they struggle daily with an actual organic problem with as Philip Flip Kromer put it “executive function and time sense.” Millions of people do suffer, struggle, try and then fail to manage time. Most of them don’t know it’s something other than a character flaw, so they will continue to fight a losing battle to prove to others that they too can get there on time. When they fail to, as they inevitably will, they flog themselves incessantly and their self-esteem suffers greatly.

    I’m the last person to suggest that everyone who is chronically late has some sort of brain dysfunction, but if you pay attention, you will know which of your friends do. Show a little kindness, offer to help them or at the very least forgive them. That’s what friends are for.

    I truly consider compassion and forgiveness much more important aspects of friend-worthiness than promptness. My real friends feel the same way and are understanding, supportive and more than willing to call me, several times if necessary, to help me get on the road in time. They don’t judge me so there is never a need for lame excuses. I do always apologize whenever I’m late and my friends always forgive me because they know how hard I try.

    So should you apologize for yelling at your friend? Of course you should. Doesn’t he always apologize when he’s late? Try this apology gift instead of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” if you truly value your friendship:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0345442318

    If you don’t value your friendship, then end it. Believe me, your chronically late friends who suffer from a real problem are beating themselves up plenty well enough without your help.

  32. Did you ever consider that this “friend” caused the traffic jam to create an excuse for himself when he knew he was *already* late? This guy is a menace and must be stopped.

  33. There can be cultural element that can come into play with this type of conflict too – I’m assuming the guy you’re complaining about is from the same cultural background as you (and most of the commenters)………if not, that would/could explain some of it……………..

  34. No apology.

    It’s like the boy who cried wolf. You can only take the stories so many times, and even if it really wasn’t his fault this time, too bad.

    I hate being late, and I think that people that are late are disrespecting my time, and excuse after excuse isn’t going to cut it.

  35. I am rarely late, but my husband is frequently tardy. It’s a trial, and I do lie to him about when we need to be someplace.

  36. first… it’s really freaky that the poster by the name of davey was talking about his tardy wife… seriously, babe, is that you?

    secondly, from the way the majority of people are talking here, no one should ever have this problem because you’re all on-time or early. good for you. if I had a cookie, I’d give it to you.

    third… if it weren’t for my husband, I would be late everywhere (even though sometimes we still are). I honestly do try and if I am late, I mean no disrespect. also, if I am late, I will call ahead and when I get there, I do not make excuses… I apologize again and move on with life. in fact, I get mad at myself for dawdling. my mom was always late for stuff, so I was always late for stuff, so it has become the way I was raised.

    note: perhaps this is all made easier by the fact that many of the friends in our circle have the potential to be late and sometimes go through spurts of always being late before shaping up and being on time. no one is ever *that* early, nor does anyone get pissed off and throw a hissy fit if someone is late. the group knows to go in to the movie or have a drink or seven if the someone is missing.

    ultimately, I guess the ‘on-times’ will always hate on the ‘lates’… it’s a fact of life. :) if the ‘on-time’ values the friendship and the person (aside from their obvious character flaw), then they will talk to the ‘late’ and try to get them to understand how much of an issue it really is. if the ‘on-time’ just doesn’t give a crap, then they’ll just drop the ‘late’ like a ton of bricks.

    oh, and in regards to the actual question… I would say, “whatever dude… you’re still late, like, every *other* time. and wipe that smug look off your face… you’re still buying this round of appletinis.”

  37. Do you still not own a cell phone?

  38. i’m with diablevert:
    “I’d apologize for blowing up at him, and then tell him that this is something that really frustrates me about the relationship, to the point where you don’t hang out with them/don’t want to be their friend because of it, or whatever.”

    it’s unfortunate that those most likely to be victimized by their late friends are also those most likely to be the most indignant about it: type A’s will be early and generally get their panties in a bunch due to their high-strung nature.

    re: the ‘magic 30 minute rule’, i am against it. suck it up and have a potentially awkward and direct conversation with your late friend. don’t be passive. by way of example: friends of mine had a few parties at their house to which I showed up about 60-90 minutes after the announced start time. when they were getting married, they told me the wedding started an hour before it actually did, and because this was a damn wedding, I arrived an hour before that time to find out that they had lied. I was pissed.

    Am I the only one who realized that Matthew was the one who was late, or was that a later addition, posted after most of these comments were made?

  39. I used to be 15 minutes early to anywhere I went. I was taught that this was respectful, and thought it did look bad if I was late. So I would overcompensate for traffic, etc. But so often I found myself waiting around the resulting 30 minutes or so it took everyone else to show up. So now I don’t worry about it anymore. If everyone else is going to be off time, why am I going to stand around in the cold waiting when I can relax and take it easy? …If you can’t beat ‘em….

  40. Reading through these posts I see yet again the main problem with most people’s ethics. They’re subjective.

    To say that tardiness shows selfishness and lack of respect is ridiculous. It’s very easy for those with an inbuilt clock and structured thinking to think “I can be on time, why can’t he/she”.

    Because their brains work in a different way. Now, I have a label for my difficulty to focus (ADHD if you must know). I tend not to use it because everybody is an individual and because a label can become just another excuse. So I try my hardest to counteract any problems that poor concentration and a poor concept of time (If I’m not constantly clockwatching I often couldn’t tell you if 1 hour or 5 had passed) but, because I have these things to deal with the likelihood of my being late anyway IS increased. There are a lot of people who struggle with concentration and/or a concept of time who are not diagnosed as, or even true sufferers of ADHD, the lack of a label doesn’t mean a lack of a problem.

    SO my advice is:

    1. People are different from each other. Recognise how easy it is to forget that and judge others by your standards. It would be self-centred for someone who can easily manage time to turn up late. For those who struggle with this area you should be sympathetic.
    2. When there’s a genuine reason then let them off the hook (so, yes, you should apologise).
    3. A real friend will be understanding. You should talk things through properly and work out strategies to overcome his tardiness.
    4. The modern world is obsessed with timetables. I remember coming to work only 2 or 3 minutes late and getting roasted by a boss who completely ignored the fact that I got straight down to work whereas the people who arrived 5 minutes early would STILL be chatting and drinking coffee ten minutes later. He never seemed to have any criticism of me for the many times I stayed a little later in order to finish something off. Strange that. The last place we need timetables is in friendships. Unless you need to be somewhere for a specific time (like the cinema) then even 10-20 minutes shouldn’t matter.

    So there it is. If he turns up late for the cinema then go inside without him. If he turns up late for less important stuff then you shouldn’t sweat it. Poor timekeeping is like poor spelling. It can be very annoying but it shouldn’t be a basis to keep or lose a friendship.

  41. My first partner was chronically late. Beginning in high school and into our late twenties, I wasted many an evening sitting around fuming and waiting for him. He compounded my frustration through unpredictability: sometimes, he simply flaked and never showed up.

    Argh.

    After many, many fights and much nagging, I realized I couldn’t change his behavior, so I’d have to change my response to it. Thus:

    a) he got a 15-minute grace period. If he arrived at 8:15 for an 8:00 date, I didn’t care much, nor did I mention it.

    b) he got an additional 15-minute allowance. If he arrived at 8:45 for an 8:00 date, I calmly let him know I’d been waiting and irritated.

    c) After 30 minutes, the plans were cancelled. If we had an 8:00 date, and 8:30 came and went without him arriving or calling, I assumed he wasn’t coming, and I found something else to do. This meant that if he did show up at 9:00, I was otherwise engaged and unable to accompany him.

    This technique actually worked pretty well for both of us. Because I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for him, I didn’t get as frustrated and angry. Because he knew that minor lateness wouldn’t lead to a fight, he could relax and let me know if he was running a bit late.

    And the first time he was more than 30 minutes late, I stuck to my word and went kiting off on my own. We were still in high school, and he was utterly crestfallen when he showed up an hour late to have my mother tell him,”Sorry, she’s gone out.” Suddenly, he understood how I felt when he kept me waiting or blew me off, and it spurred him to be more punctual in the future.

    Sadly, he died young. But I must say, when his family and I heard a funeral director refer to him as “the late [name redacted],” we burst into most unseemly gales of laughter.

  42. I’m a late person, too. I, too, used to have one silly excuse after another. The traffic is bad? The traffic bad every day. People who are never late don’t have better traffic patterns, they just leave earlier and allow for delays. I don’t.
    I don’t make excuses for my lateness anymore, and my friends have called/lied about the time/yelled at me. However, they do love me and my chronic lateness is a flaw just like any other. I learned quickly that I couldn’t be late to work (I am a nursing student- if I’m late, I miss report), and I try not to be late to movies etc. But I am a late person. I don’t know why. I don’t think that my time is more important than other people’s, I just tend to not notice my time at all. So my answer is no, you don’t have to apologize, because this one time doesn’t excuse the others, and yes, you should remain friends unless lateness is something you just can’t tolerate.
    To the other late people: stop making excuses, they’re onto you! Just let them know when you’re running late, and try to pick laid-back friends.

  43. I think Jen is very wise. Wary of adding to the lateness-is-disrespectful-of-others vs. lateness-is-a-psychological-disorder debate, let me instead share an experiment still in progress with my perennially late partner:

    Per her request, I prepared two mason jars, one filled with pretty marbles and one empty to begin. For every time she is on time for an appointment (by her own clock, no grace period), she gets a marble in the on-time jar. For every time she’s late, she loses a marble. We’re not psychologists or behavioral scientists, but this motivational device also helps settle any disputes of how often she’s late! At the moment she has three marbles in the on-time jar, so she’s net up three.

  44. Friendship is all about accepting the other person for who he or she is. Just like the late persons accept the early persons and tolerate their behaviour (being aggresive, leaving early when there were plans made, cancelling meetings, lying about the time) so must the early persons accept the late persons for being late.

    i have been late on times and friends of mine have been late too but thats what makes our friendship stronger. I would never lie about the time of the meeting because it is insulting to my friends and i would never go into the cinema early (unless they told me to do so) because this indicates that you (early person) value a film more than your friendship to the late person.

    Grow over it. Being overly irritated about someone who is late may have deeper meaning that you dont value them as “best friends”

  45. My husband used to get quite irritated with me for how late I would be. I’ve tried hard to work at being more punctual (and being more clear with him about when I actually expect to be places), but it’s an uphill battle, because of the family I grew up in.

    Example: our wedding.

    My brother (the best man) was 30 minutes late.

    My dad was ONE HOUR late. For my wedding.

    The only thing that saved their butts was that the J.P. was TWO hours late– though she had a much better excuse: a plumbing catastrophie struck just as she was getting ready to leave the house, and she had to deal with a flood. (This was before everyone had cell phones, and she had no ready way to reach us.)

    My brother and father didn’t even bother with excuses or explanations.

    I don’t bother to try to be on time when my father or brother are involved. For everyone else (including my mother, who is usually on time– and is no longer married to my father), I make the effort. I stink at estimating how long it will take me to get ready or travel, and I’m still usually 5-10 minutes later than I’d like to be for many occasions, but I’m working at it. I’m 41 now, so I guess I’ve got another 30 years or so to try to get it right.

    One tip for the chronically late: when possible, I try to set times with “-ish” at the end, to give people fair warning that my sense of time isn’t that great. And I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to miss a movie for me. If I’m late for a timed event, I expect people to go on without me. I’ll catch up if I can. If not, my loss.

  46. Oh, and to answer the actual question: it is always worthwhile to apologize for losing one’s temper. Bad behavior on someone else’s part doesn’t excuse bad behavior on your own part, and losing your temper doesn’t really help anyone.

    But I would make different arrangements before going to any other timed events with such a person, e.g. “I’ll meet you inside.” Easier on everyone that way.

  47. I’m another one of those people who is consistently 5-10 minutes late. I recognize myself in others’ comments above about underestimating time. I’ve even joked with my mother that a time warp exists in my apartment and the last 10 minutes before I’m supposed to walk out the door actually, literally, disappear on me! :)

    But here’s the thing: I also know what it’s like to constantly be waiting for people, because, like The Yeti himself, I served in the Peace Corps for two years. And you know what? Everyone there was late for everything always…on average by about an hour. I taught English in a school with 40-some other teachers and one day the school director was hosting a party with all of us invited. I left my house 40 minutes after the party was scheduled to begin…and I was the first to arrive.

    So, on one hand I’m sympathetic to my friends who wait for me on a regular basis, but on the other I realize that our sense of time is very cultural, and what’s defined as late in America is not necessarily late in other places. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we have one of the most schedule-obsessive cultures in the world–most other cultures have a much more laid back approach to time. I don’t think that’s bad, but I do think it means we should have a little more perspective when we’re about to “divorce” friends (or spouses, for that matter!) over time-management skills…or lack thereof!

  48. I know that I’m a chronically late person. Left to my own devices, I will waste days away doing anything other what what I am supposed to. Commenting here, for example. =p

    But I am aware of my behavior and don’t make excuses for it. When I have to be somewhere and there are other people waiting, I make it a point to be an entire hour earlier than them. If I am not waiting there first, ages before we agreed to meet, I will be there 40 minutes late. I have tried to be on time, and it happens only by the grace of an occassional miracle.

    Of course I wish that those who live by the clock could understand those of us who don’t, but rather than make things difficult for other people, I choose to go out of my way instead. Even someone with a chronic late problem can do that.

  49. I do think an apology was owed to the friend who arrived late. But I think that apology was owed before hearing about the traffic backup on the news. I don’t think the fact that in this particular instance the friend had a valid excuse makes any difference. So, no, don’t apologize after hearing about the traffic jam on the news. But do apologize after realizing that blowing up at your friend was wrong. (Hypothetical “you” = the “I” in the hypothetical example.)

  50. You wouldn’t be late for an interview for your dream job, or picking up your multi-million dollar lottery winnings. These things are important, so you would make special allowances.

    Stop blaming your parents or your poor concentration. Recognize that when you make plans with people and are late, you put them in the awkward position of being rude if they just go in without you.

    This is what drives people crazy. You decide to put your distractions or desires ahead of them, defacto “I’ll make them wait, and if they don’t want to wait they can just go without me.”

    If they wanted to go without you, they wouldn’t have made plans with you. And tardiness is not the same as poor spelling. My crappy spelling has never caused my friends to miss a movie or reservation.