[Written By: Isabelle Hunt-Deol]
[Illustration By: Sofia Lopes]
“I am always late on principle, my principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.”
– Oscar Wilde
It’s highly likely that I’m submitting this article late… sorry, GUM.
I’m not sure whether it’s the struggle of parting from my cushy covers in the morning or the thrill and excitement I get from racing around my flat five minutes before I’m meant to be somewhere, but I never like to arrive places on time.
We’ve all had the ‘…mmmm, I’ll just rest my eyes for another 5 minutes…’ only to wake up an hour later scenario – and hopefully for most, it happens only on the odd occasion. Waking up is the first struggle of being punctual. The bed really is a thing of awe and wonder, with the way it manages to lure you in and never let you leave. I’ve tried every ‘solution’ to getting up on time – including getting my brother to splash water on my face and asking my mum to whip my duvets off in the winter season. Once facing the task of parting with your bed, the next step is to actually get out of the house. Easier said than done.
‘Sorry I’m late!’ was probably my go-to phrase in my adolescent school days, but getting into minor disagreements with work colleagues and school has taught me to organise my attendance better and make sure I’m early to certain things. Turning up late to something is usually taken as a lack of care for the person or thing – even if this is not the reason, it’s nonetheless seen to be this way. This appears to be a major part of British culture and, thanks to my laid-back personality, I’ve never really understood why it is such a big deal.
My mother’s side of the family are Indian and, when visiting family, I was amazed at how the concept of punctuality can feel non-existent. This has often been referred to as ‘Indian Standard Time’: being late is an accepted practice. One thing I learned in India is that people do not wish to disappoint, so are not always straightforward and will often say what they think someone wants to hear. We visited for my cousin’s wedding, which didn’t start till three hours later than the invitation said; everyone turned up in their own time, including the bride and groom. The best thing is, people are often not bothered when others are late. It works because it’s expected. The problems arise when it’s not expected.
Punctuality creates expectations. In 2013, Justin Bieber turned up forty minutes late to his concert, which resulted in a Twitter storm. Fans felt betrayed. They were expecting their idol to swagger onto the stage and belt out ‘You should go and love yourself!’, but instead there was no appearance from him – and for them, yes, Justin, it’s too late to say sorry.
Sometimes there are exceptions for being late, but when there’s no good reason people do have the right to be annoyed. At the end of the day it all boils down to time; how much you value your time and how much you value the time of others. This is probably one of life’s great tensions and balancing acts.