21 August 2016

Punctuality is the politeness of kings: Why punctuality matters

I could never think well of a man's intellectual or moral character if he was habitually unfaithful to his appointments."
- Nathaniel Emmons, American theologian (1745-1840)

I was late for work once.  Once; Monday, 13 June 1994.  I remember it not because it was the day Exxon was ordered to pay punitive damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  No, I remember it because it was the day we found my old man sprawled unconscious on his bedroom floor.  That was the day Dad suffered a stroke and concussed himself as he collapsed.  More notably, I remember it because it was the day before he went away.... for good.  And so after 10½ years of never having been late for work, that was how a blip finally found its way into my impeccable attendance record.

I take immense pride in my punctuality (at least two acquaintances have described it as "frightening") and vividly remember how my boss penned the single word "Exemplary" under the column marked "Punctuality & Commitment" on my annual appraisal form for 2001.  And this meant a lot to me; it showed recognition.  More importantly, it showed appreciation of something I'd striven incessantly to achieve.  That is why I find it tragic that, in some cultures, punctuality isn't even expected - never mind observed - and being late is deemed "fashionable."

I do not hold in high regard those who think it's "okay" to be routinely late.  I think they are undisciplined, indifferent and lack a genuine concern for others.  In short, I think they don't give a damn.  I also equate habitual lateness with rudeness.  In fact, making others wait - or making others also late - is rudeness (and selfishness) personified.  In my younger days, I looked down on people who were always late for school, for an appointment, for work or for a meeting.  And guess what?  I still do.  Fact is, lateness really bothers me, which is why it drives me up the wall when someone is habitually un-punctual - be it family, friends, associates or those on my wage bill. 

Punctuality is a virtue, and like so many other virtues, it is one that's (tragically) disappearing with each passing generation.  Far too many people these days have lost that sense of urgency which once drove humankind to progress and prosper.  And that's probably why it's getting increasingly lonely for me (as well as those who walk with me) here on Punctuality Street as our numbers continue to dwindle.  However, I'm slowly learning to come to terms with that loneliness in the hope that, someday, tardiness won't bother me as much as it does now.  Not that I'll ever condone it - quite the opposite - but sadly, in many cultures today, the situation has come to a point where trying to fight (or even discourage) tardiness is a lost cause.

Closer to home (and until such time that my ability to do so is hampered by sickness or physical immobility), I will continue to strive to be punctual.  Why?  Because I believe that being punctual is being respectful.  More importantly, I believe that being punctual is right.  What do YOU think?

Are you bothered by people who are habitually late?  How do you handle them?

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