taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Sunday, January 02, 2005

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who are punctual, and people who are late. For years now, as an almost compulsively punctual person, I have wondered about the late types. I am, after all, married to a late person. He makes ME late, too, on a regular basis, which makes me want to jump out of my skin.

From what I've observed, his lateness comes from his inability to gasp two very important things. First, he has no clue how long anything takes, and consistently underestimates. Second, he seems to regard time as inexact. "Six o clock", then, means "within thirty minutes of six o'clock." It's somewhat the way they view time in Italy. Combine the two, and it equals major stress trying to get out of the house, and we're always, always late.

My mother is also a late person. She even went to talk to one of these occupational counselors about it. She decided that her lateness stems from a sense of superiority and a subconscious, though purposeful, disregard for the importance of other people's time. This was a major realization for her, and led to her being less late. She now shows up fifteen minutes late, instead of forty-five.

Neither my mother or my husband seem to think their lateness should be an issue with anyone. The only reason my mother's tried to cure hers is because she was pissing off her clients. But fundamentally, late people really look at being late as no big deal. And I think they believe that us punctual people, when we complain about it, are seriously overreacting.

I think consistent lateness is a serious flaw that should be cured. Not only does it betray a totally narcissistic worldview--my time is more important than anyone else's--but it represents disordered thought processes. Late people are always the ones who are underprepared, who haven't thought things through, whose credit card is not where it's supposed to be, whose cell phone is uncharged. They are the ones that forget to launder their shirts the night before, who leave their day-planners at the bank machine, who miss their exits. Their minds are elsewhere, and it's very annoying.

I am not always, always punctual. And when I'm late, you can be sure it's because really? I just don't care about being on time. That's how I know that people who are always late are sending a message. Because even if they do tend to be disorganized, if they cared, they could get it together, start earlier, prepare ahead of time. And the fact that they don't care enough to make that effort speaks volumes.

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