clock snakeMay 31, 2023–We all know someone who is always late. If you don’t know that person, then that person is you.

Example: “Elvira” has an appointment at a place 20 minutes away. This person believes she can leave 20 minutes before the appointment.

She is always 20 minutes late.


True, the actual road travel time from points A to B is 20 minutes. What Elvira always fails to consider is the time required to

– get up off the couch

– walk out the door

– navigate through the toys and pets on the sidewalk

– open and close the garage door or gate

– drive down the lane

– merge onto the main highway

Then, on the other end:

– find the address

– hope the street lights are timed correctly

– not get stuck behind the poor driver turning left who doesn’t remember they need to insert their vehicle into the middle of the intersection waiting for the light to change so they can turn left on yellow rather than make everyone behind them wait through an entire other cycle

– find a parking place

– walk into the office

– find the right person to talk to

– wait for that person to acknowledge your presence

So it is a “20-minute trip”–hiding inside 40 minutes of travel time.

I’ve studied this issue forever.

I used to think it was gender related, but you can’t say that these days. But now I believe our time disparity is “target related.” That is, the same individual will be late, or early, depending on the event.

Events we are late for:

Funerals and weddings

Any school-related function

Any church-related function

Any class reunion

Every party

Any meeting you are required to attend

Events we are early for:

Any meeting you require others to attend

One exception to the “being on time” person are events where the “on time” is in question.

In this category I include any adult class, lecture, or presentation.

We have learned through a lifetime of painful experience, that nothing of substance happens in the first 15 minutes of any public presentation. You can straggle in at 20 minutes past the advertised start time, and the “facilitator” is still finishing up the introduction of local elected officials, thanking underwriters, reading the speaker’s painfully contrived bio, testing the microphones, and trying to get the IT guy to hide the powerpoint screensaver of his family at the beach.

When I ran an adult education program, nothing burned my buzzsaw more than standing at the back of a room full of eager students, and the presenter saying, “It’s time to start, but let’s give it a few more minutes in case some more students show up.”


With that sentence, you just devalued the time invested by all those who showed up at the announced time, while enabling the scofflaws who couldn’t balance their bagels on their knees while they drive.

That guaranteed that each succeeding week, everyone would show up five minutes later. By the end of a 6-week course, the class wasn’t ending before the next one started. Unless, of course, that one started late, too.

Imagine what an amazing, efficient, productive place this world would become, if only we showed up on time.