Is punctuality a choice?

To mitigate my slight hijacking of this thread
My friends who are late for lunch dates http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=406624
found in the Pit, let’s explore punctuality vs. habitually late viewpoints here.

My post to the doper whose friends always show up late for lunch, thereby making her late getting back to work went something like:

"Punctuality is a choice. Barring the unexpected traffic jam or such like, you can either decide to be on time or to be late. The message I feel the chronically late are sending is “I disrespect you. My time is more important than yours. I had better things to do.” Now I’m not talking about the occasional “Oops - the baby puked on me and I had to change clothes” 10-minutes-late-once-in-a-while stuff. Just the never-make-it-anywhere-on-time tardy types.

Some of the “tardy” posted back stuff about having ADD, frontal lobe issues, etc. Where do you stand?

If you can ever be anywhere, you can be there on time.

Fool me once and all that. If you already know those people are always late, don’t schedule them when time matters. If they are coming to your house to watch the Super Bowl and arrive at halftime when you already ate all the wings, it’s their loss. If you insist on meeting them for lunch in a half-hour break, it is your fault you got yourself in that pickle.

I am normally very punctual and it sometimes upsets me when other people aren’t. But I don’t expect all people to live by my standard. I am free to choose the people I associate myself with, both personally and in business.

Back when I was more compulsive and panicky, I didn’t have a choice but to be on time or, more frequently, too early. Now that I am happily medicated, I don’t worry about a few minutes delay. That may or may not be a good thing, depending how you look at it, but I am certainly less anxious than I used to be. I would never push it to the point where it would hurt anyone, though, and I would count on someone letting me know.

I think that punctuality can be a choice, and sometimes, it is simply out of our control.

It says something about someone’s personality if they are continually late or continually punctual, but I dont think you could conclude that it was their active choosing to be late or on-time.

Punctuality is absolutely a choice. I used to be late for work every day because it didn’t matter, and I set the alarm clock for 7:20. Once I was cautioned for tardiness, I set the alarm clock for 7:00 and have not been tardy since.

Thank you.

I had several posts in the other thread where I tried to explain why I have timing issues. I’m not sure my personal why really matters, so much as the getting this point across. Punctual people can’t fathom the way non punctual people think. They can’t fathom being that distractable. They can’t fathom having absolutely no accurate sense of time. Therefore, they conclude it must be an active choice. It must be an easy, flip decision that we are making as a direct insult, when that couldn’t be further from the case.

Yes. Anyone can be somewhere ontime given the right circumstances. For someone like me, it takes work, preparation, and a lot of extra time. Just because I have now learned (the hard way) how to make airplane flights, does not mean that I can reproduce those results under every circumstance.

In the original thread I also mentioned I was klutzy. My mother was convinced this was out of carelessness. She felt that if I was just carefull enough, I wouldn’t ever fall, or drop/spill things. I can’t live my life as if everything I touched (from my toothbrush to my dinner glass) were a priceless antique. I can’t do that because I’m human. Because everything would take 4 times as long, and I’d never be able to pay attention to anything else (like the dinner conversation). Other people take their ability to talk and wash dishes at the same time for granted.

The lateness is much the same way. Being on time takes far more work for me than it does for most people. I need to prioritize where those efforts go, or my entire life will be consumed by minute-by-minute scheduling. I do the best I can. If people want to take it personal, so be it, but to be honest. . . I could say the same about the punctual people, too. If you’re my friend, do you really want me to assign airport or family funereal importance to every meeting? Really? You’d want to know that I’ve been sitting around waiting for an hour for everything we do, no matter how small? Is it really so insulting to know our lunch date is not as important as major life events? Do you really, honestly expect to be that important to your friends? Do you care so little about them that you can’t meet them halfway?

It is maddening to have something wrong with you that you work hard to control, to work around, to live a normal and productive life, to feel like your best effort gets you only the bare minimum. . . and then have people be so incredibly flip and dismissive about it.

Wee Bairn, just because it was that easy for you does not mean it’s that easy for everyone else. I’m actually laughing right now. Get up earlier? Well, why didn’t I think of that? Oh, wait. . . it’s because I already do. It’s just not that simple.

I don’t mean to snark you, but this is exactly what I’m talking about about people being flip. Everyone has a one line solution to a complex problem. In truth, it involves a lot of scheduling, reminders, and advance preparation. Its more work than my naturally-punctual roommates ever have to put into anything.

Why do you think it is so effortless for the on-time ones? Perhaps they have elaborate planning going on behind the scenes, too.

I will not assert that punctuality is not a choice; however, I do think it can be unfair to necessarily think it is a lack of respect. I am often late to work, class, seeing the gf, etc. but my choice is not an active choice that I don’t care if I’m on time but a passive one because of my lack of awareness.

Here’s a common example, its 6:00, I just got home from work, I call the gf and tell her I gotta work out, and I’ll be there by 9:00; 2 1/2 hours to work out (yes, I’m a gym rat), 30 minutes to get there… perfect, right? WRONG! Both of those times are correct, but I forgot to account for the drive to the gym, the drive back, taking a shower, etc. Next thing I know I’m 30 minutes late, and its for no good reason than because I didn’t account for other things I have to do.

A similar example, I have routine appointments with my Chiropractor and I usually see him on my day off during the day, so there’s no traffic, and it takes about 20 minutes. Sometimes I make an appointment on a work day, and I’m ALWAYS late when I do that, because I fail to account for the increased traffic, which turns a 20 minute drive into a 60+ minute drive.

Obviously, the choice is to try to take into account that I won’t take everything into account, and when I do, and the things that slipped my mind come into play, I’m on time, but it’s not a simple task.

On the other hand, I used to have a friend that was habitually hours late. I remember one time specifically where we had to leave my house by 6:00 to get to a concert on time, so I told him be at my house by 2:00 (attempting to account for his habitual tardiness). I remember calling him at 1:00, his mom said “He just woke up, he said he’ll hop in the shower and be there in an hour.” I called an hour later and got the exact same message, repeat several more times, until I call at 5:00 to find out he had left “five minutes ago”, and he doesn’t arrive at my house until about 6:30 (even though it took about 25 minutes to drive, I still can’t figure out how it took him 90 minutes). In my opinion, THAT was a conscious lack of respect, because it wasn’t that he failed to account for things, but rather, knew how long it would all take and, instead, chose to go back to sleep.

Now, I’m unsure where exactly in that continuum your friends exist. If you feel it’s more toward simple absent-mindedness, you can decide whether you can live with that or not. If you feel it’s more toward disrespect, you can decide whether or not you still want that friendship.

How do punctual people think? How do non punctual people think? What is it about the former that precludes understanding the latter?

What kind of work do you do that allows you to zone out, and pay no heed to the passing of time?

The reason it is an insult is that clear message is “My time is more valuable than yours.”

Me too. Most punctual people have to work at it. It’s either worth it to you, or it isn’t.

How about *most *circumstances?

Does your word mean so little to you that break it so casually? Are you seriously suggesting that expecting you to be on time is callous on the part of your friends because you sometimes have to get there early to make sure you are not late?

Who is being incredibly flip and dismissive? In the other thread you stated that are at work by nine every day. Every day you have a deadline and you meet it. If something is important enough to you, you can be punctual. Ergo, the things you are not punctual for are not important enough to you.

No one is naturally punctual. Everyone has to prioritize, and schedule, and make plans. Why do feel that you are the only one who bears this burden?

Why does it require so much effort on your part? Barring unforseen circumstances I don’t find it all that difficult to be where I am suppose to be when I am suppose to be there. I don’t say this to be rude but are you suffering from a mental disorder of some kind?

Marc

Someone said, and it impressed me as true, that people who are chronically late often simply try to fit too many things into their schedule and cannot guess correctly often enough.
So that rather than shirking work, they may instead be adding too many things to their to-do lists.
That’s often my failing. I’ll try to organize my presentationwhen I should be on the road, and then the smallest tieup makes me late. I would have been early otherwise, and could have rearranged things after I arrived, but tried to do too much.

Because they say things like “I set the alarm clock 20 minutes earlier and I was on time.”

I can’t remember the last time I was late to anything. I still don’t really understand it. I get up for work every day. I get up at the same time. I know that it takes me 45 minutes to shower, dress and leave the house. It never varies more than about 5 minutes. Why would it? Every workday I leave the house within about 5 minutes of 6am.

Same for the weekend. If I need to be somewhere I know how long it will take me to get ready to leave. I know how long it will take to where I need to be. I plan accordingly, if saying that I need to leave at such and such a time could be considered a ‘plan’.

I’m really not trying to be snarky. Obsidian, does it take you significantly different amounts of time to get ready on different days, or for different occasions?

I don’t really see how this has to take so much extra work and preparation. Sure, If your going to leave at 7am you should be prepared to leave a 7am. This may mean that you need to get in the shower at 6am. I completely fail to see how this requires any significant amount of planning.

I’m in the exact same situation as Obsidian. I tend to be late for everything. Not by a tremendous amount, but consistently late.

If I’m running behind schedule (and I’m always running behind schedule), I can rarely catch up, because the anxiety of running late tends to dramatically increase my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. (Did I remember to grab my cell phone? Did I close the garage? Did I lock the front door. Did I remember to bring all of the files for the meeting? Better stop/go back and check.) Whatever it is that I am doing, from getting ready in the morning to finishing up a couple of things in the office in the evening, it always tends to take a little longer than I figure it will, making me run late.

For me to guarantee that I will be somewhere on time takes almost superhuman effort for me.

For things that I simply cannot be late for (like taking a state licensing exam, for instance), I now aim to be there an hour in advance.

If I did this for everything in my life, like a lunch meeting, I wouldn’t get anything done.

I think it is a choice, but that raises the question of exactly what a choice is. Let’s take all these people who say they are incapable of being on time. Let’s imagine that they won the lottery, and can pick up their million-dollar check if they arrive by 2:00. I have no doubt they would be there by 2:00.

I once heard that the human mind is only capable of making what appears to be the best choice at any one time. I don’t have any proof of this, but it seems to be true in my observation. So the only way to make a particular choice is to have that choice be more important than the alternate choice.

Example: I keep telling myself I need to get to bed earlier, but I rarely do it, because in the evening, the motivation to go to bed isn’t more compelling than the motivation to stay up and do stuff. If it were, I would do it.

I think people who are always late could be on time, but only if the consequences of being late are severe enough to force them to find a way to modify their behavior, such as the example of missing a plane flight mentioned earlier.

So let’s imagine you’ve arrived at the gym for your 2.5 hour workout - maybe a little later than you thought you might, due to traffic. You lift, run - whatever and every now and then you glance at a clock. You realize that you are due for your date in one hour. It takes you 30 minutes to shower and 30 minutes to get to your date. You’ve only gotten in 2 hours of your workout. Do you cut it short to make your date? Or have you just not considered any of the clocks all over the gym? The heart of this question is probably to address the “time just gets away from me” theme I’m getting from some of the posts.

Yep. I am a very disorganized and absent-minded person. But I am rarely late for anything. Why? Because it isn’t permissible. I don’t allow myself to be late for things, and I don’t excuse myself if I am late.

It isn’t always easy, but no one said life would be easy.

Obsidian, I don’t know if your lifestyle allows this (feeding animals, dropping kids at school, etc will screw this) but maybe you need to wake up later. Yes, later. Leave everything ready the night before, go to bed showered and with your hair done and under a net, choose your clothes, prep breakfast. Put the alarm clock at 15 minutes before the time you know you need to leave the house to get there on time (allow some extra minutes to make up for that idiot in the blue malibu). When you wake up you just hop into your clothes, grab a bite and take off. The more things you have to deal with before leaving, the more chances you will get distracted and be late.

Emphasis mine.
That’s the key. Don’t make excuses for tardiness, especially to yourself. It either matters, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t matter, fine. Just don’t expect everyone to be cool with it.