The clock ticked away. One could sense his discomfort, as he looked despondently at the few empty chairs in the conference room, even though we were well into the meeting time. And just as my editor-in-chief began the proceedings, the door opened and someone walked in.
He resumed his sentence, interrupted by the sound of someone walking up to the end of the room, and then… someone else walked in. By now, he was clearly making an effort to hold back his frustration at seeing people not turn up on time. And then, someone else walked in, adding to the stress. That someone, who walked in with a sheepish look on his face and muttering ‘sorry’ under his breath, also didn’t look relaxed. He too was stressed. I began to wonder if someone arriving late somewhere ever makes anyone — the receiver or the doer — feel good. It doesn’t. Ever.
Let me tell you that I am not sitting saintly on some high moral pedestal here. Many a times, I’m the one sheepishly trying to sneak in when a meeting has already started, cursing bitterly the day I bought shoes that make a tick-tock sound as I walk. I always justify my latecoming, even to myself, with a ‘valid’ and unavoidable reason, just as everyone else. But frankly my dears, it’s all bullshit.
No matter what excuse we stammer and stutter, there’s actually nothing ‘valid’ about turning up late for something that’s scheduled for a specific time. Yeah, of course, excluding the emergencies, like the road caving in and taking you along, the Delhi Metro going on a flash strike while you are locked inside, a sudden bout of explosive diarrhoea and so on. But I only have one word for those who, as a habit, walk in late and keep others waiting, be it at a business meeting or a romantic date — mannerless.
There, I’ve said it. All those itching to pounce back with beyond-our-control type of reasons like traffic jams etc can hate me but you know the truth… don’t you? When arriving late happens as anything other than a rare occurrence, you know it has nothing to do with that traffic jam. It’s plain and simple disrespect for time, your own and that of others.
It’s all about manners, people. We either have them or we don’t. And when it comes to manners related to punctuality, we, perhaps having studied moral science as a subject only till fifth grade, mostly don’t. Tell me honestly, when you see travel advisories for foreigners mention that Indians are invariably late for events and meetings, doesn’t it make you cringe? Every patriotic nerve in me wants to tell such advisors, and all those who crack the sick joke about IST being ‘Indian stretchable time’, to get lost. But every honest nerve in me tells me that they are not entirely wrong.
We see it all around us. Celebrities turn up late for inaugurations, guests turn up late for parties, employees turn up late for work and ‘professionals’ turn up late for meetings. And God bless the invention of cell phones, now everyone says they are ‘ten minutes away’, even if they are at home selecting which socks to wear.
Anyhow, here’s a calmness tip for those who are stressed because they have to deal with unpunctual twits daily. Voice your concern, don’t keep it inside your system and feel like a victim of someone else’s tardiness. In fact, if your position permits, frame and follow the the ‘five minute rule’ — if everyone does not turn up within five minutes of the scheduled meeting time, you’ll excuse yourself and leave. This will drive home the point that others may not value their time but you value yours enough to not waste it waiting for late comers.
And now the calmness tip for the habitual latecomers. You need a shrink if you can’t tell yourself one simple fact. That it’s not okay to be late every now and then. And not even having the courtesy to inform and apologise when you are late is downright criminal. Remember, being late is an exception. You’ll be perpetually stressed if you turn it into a rule in your life.
If you think the universe conspires to keep you from reaching on time, get yourself acquainted with a term called ‘margin’. Keep that. Sonal Kalra was tired of facing angry glares when she arrived late for the meetings. So she made a wise decision…. and got rubber soles fitted in her shoes. Sneaking in quietly makes life so much more easier.