Be Early Or Be Late, Just Don’t Be Last Minute

I am on time. Always. Typically, I arrive early to wherever I am expected. I don’t do late well.


No matter which of these is on time, I will be there. (Image by Leo Reynolds via Flickr)

You might think people who tend to be late would bother me. I’m not at all upset by them, unless they are traveling with me. If you’re late, fine. Do not make me late.

There are certain people whose time management drives me crazy. They are a small minority of folks. They occupy the space between early people and late people. They are the people who arrive just in the nick of time.

Is It Precision?

Part of my job entails briefing my counterpart on the next shift. Typically, I arrive at work thirty minutes before the people I supervise. The person I relieve gets me up to speed on the events of the day, then leaves because he was thirty minutes early for his shift.

Until not long ago, one of the people who would relieve me would arrive one minute before he was due to start his shift. He’d arrive one minute ahead of time, want to be social and wonder why I wasn’t chatty. I can be chatty, but not when I am late for the door.

Initially I was upset because I thought he would wait outside until one minute before he was to report, then come inside. I began waiting in the parking lot. He would pull into the lot two minutes ahead of time, day after day. I was sure he was sitting up the road until the last possible second to make his hair of his chinny chin chin arrival.

I was wrong. I started moving out on his route to work. I was as far as ten minutes from the office, he always hit the same points at the same time. He always arrived in the lot at two minutes before he would be late and walked in one minute before that magic moment.

How do people do that? If I had to arrive at the same spot at the same time daily, I would fail miserably. Some people are amazingly precise.

Let’s Talk About My Newspaper Lady.

Chinese-american man in his home in Flatbush

A man who isn't me, reading a paper that isn't mine. (Image via Wikipedia)

As I mentioned, I am not late. But I may arrive 15 minutes ahead of when I’m expected, or ten, or thirty. Things happen. Sometimes I get a slow start. Other times there are accidents. Things happen.

My alarm goes off at 4:30 am on work mornings. That is a painful time to wake up. I value every minute of sleep. I typically sleep soundly until the alarm. There are mornings where I will stir a bit and wonder how much longer I can sleep. I can know within one minute, without opening my eyes when my alarm is going to go off. It takes hearing one special combination of sounds.

When I hear a car zip down my block combined with the sound of folded newspapers hitting the driveways I know that I have exactly one minute until my alarm goes off. Whooooooshhh—plop—hhhhhhh—plop—hhhhhh—plop. I hear the sound, I grumble. I get up and look at the clock. 4:29, every time. EVERY TIME?

How does my newspaper lady do it? Why does she never have a morning where she spills coffee on herself? How is it that her car never breaks down? Does the power never go out at her house? Is she at all familiar with the flu? Nothing ever befalls her. She is at my driveway at 4:29, every morning.

I appreciate her work ethic. I like that my paper is there for me in the morning. I hate her. I hate her ability to arrive at the same precise moment every day.

Why Is This An Issue?

These last moment people are a scourge on the rest of us. We should rise up against them. Why? I’ll tell you why.

As reliable as they seem, their last moment ways create stress for the rest of us. When we travel with them, they arrive at the last possible moment to find us wondering if we should leave without them. Then they get insulted that we would consider such a thing.

If we need their input at work, they will give it to us at the deadline and wonder why we look at them with exasperation.

One of them probably woke me up at 4:29 a.m. this morning.

The rest of them will read this right before I write something else.


43 Comments on “Be Early Or Be Late, Just Don’t Be Last Minute”

  1. Uh-oh. I’m a scourge. I try to rationalize it by saying that I’m attempting to squeeze every drop out of every minute. More likely, I’m just an imbecile.

    Looking out the window right now for you and the early birds weilding your torches and pitchforks and clocks…

  2. Wendi says:

    So Oma, as part of your Administration of World Dominance, how will you address this timely issue?

  3. “I can be chatty, but not when I am late for the door.”—Thank you! I also get up at 4:30 for work, which means I leave work earlier than most people. And people always decide to start talking to me 5 minutes before I leave. Stresses me out.

    • jacquelincangro says:

      Oh I feel your pain. I arrive to work early and therefore leave a bit earlier than most of my co-workers. They all know that I leave earlier than they do but still can’t help but come around 5 minutes before I leave. I’ve even prefaced their comments with, “Can we address this tomorrow since I’m about to head out?” Nope. Doesn’t work. “This will just take a minute.” Famous last words.

  4. AiXeLsyD13 says:

    My wife is last-minute, and I’m get-there-early.

    I picked up “A.I.S. time” from Everybody Loves Raymond, I think. At any rate, I’m always giving her an A.I.S. time rather than a departure time… it has extended to anyone that happens to road-trip with me.

    I like having padding, in case I want to stop & get gas or a drink, at some spectacular road-side attraction, in case I get stuck waiting for the longest train in North America to cross in front of me, or (especially in the case of my last vehicle) in case a wheel falls of or something.

  5. omawarisan says:

    At this very moment I am facilitating a class. It is 829. Speaker is due to start at 830. Not here.

    • AiXeLsyD13 says:

      Mind-blowing. Ha ha.

    • Betty says:

      Please. Don’t even get me started on speakers. As a conference organizer, I deal with late arrival speakers all the time. Over the years, I’ve fine tuned my onsite arrival/start time communication to them. My colleagues kindly refer to me as ” the linear one”. Let me know if you want the template for speaker guidelines.

      • omawarisan says:

        And we were starting to move speakers around and just about had it worked out, and in she walked.

        I am low maintenance and prompt. At one conference I even had a second presentation ready and filled in on 15 minutes notice for a cancelled speaker. Have your people call my people, Betty.

  6. Jason says:

    I’m a last minute guy. Sorry about everything.

  7. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I’m almost always exactly on time – not a minute before nor after. But, if there’s a particularly fidgety, anxious person waiting for me (or a critical situation), I can oblige and be there early. I cannot, under any circumstances, tie my arrival, when it comes to airplane travel, to a chronically late person. I seem to be late for work a lot these days. It’s 7:03 right now and I have to be at work by 7:30. I still have to brush my teeth, make lunch and breakfast and get the dogs a treat. Oh, dear.

  8. I have had phases of my life where I switch back and forth between being freakishly early and being skin-of-my-teeth on-time. Would you buy that I am a wizard and arrive precisely when I mean to?

  9. Katybeth says:

    I’m on time. Always. If I want to be early or late I have to plan for it. My dearly departed of-course thought time was a mere suggestion. It is not “in the nick of time” to arrive on time. People need to ask “on time people” to arrive when they want us to arrive. If my doctor’s office asks me to arrive 15 minutes before my appointment to fill out forms–I do.

    Who subscribes to newspapers anymore, anyway?

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh I am all over the adjusted time thing. At work,I have given a time I want people there, then pointed people out and said “for you, that means 15 minutes before that”

      I do, on the weekends.

  10. I used to be a last minute person, but it didn’t last. I had a job where I had to meet with new clients on a frequent basis and being late was not an option. I got in the habit of being in the area at least 03 minutes ahead of time, so I could show up at least 10-15 minutes before each meeting.

    In my younger days, before I had a “real” job, I had the last minute thing perfected; yet, there was always the issue of people’s personal clocks being off by a minute or two. If any debate ensued over the “real time” at the moment, I would always reference The Official US Time, since my watch was synced with this clock.

    • omawarisan says:

      I saw someone debate the official time with an old supervisor when I first started working. He had some response involving Timex being the offical time as long as he was breathing.

  11. Linda Sand says:

    I participated in a group where most of us came early to have time to chat before the meeting started. One woman always came in the door right at starting time. Then she talked during the presentation. Drove me nuts!

  12. Very timely. Last night we went to dinner at some friends. The invite was for 7. We arrived 2 minutes early. The guests of honor rolled in at 8:40 without a word of apology or explanation. Or call to say they were on their way.

    • omawarisan says:

      No, not cool. I can abide people who are late. I get that they are that way, but being that late and not even calling, no. I think that would have been justification for moving the party before they arrived.

  13. Laura says:

    I don’t know how people manage to be exactly on time — I have trouble estimating how long it will take me to get anywhere. Even if I’m just walking from my office to a conference room at work, I can never predict whether I’ll be able to go straight there or whether I’ll be waylaid on the way. Maybe exactly-on-time people are just really brusque when they run into people in the hallways.

    The real problem with your colleague isn’t that he’s right on time; it’s that what he’s right on time for is the official schedule, which is unworkable, instead of the de facto schedule that you and the other supervisors are following.

    • omawarisan says:

      That’s my point exactly. If I’ve got a meeting that involves me doing anything but turning around in my chair, I am on the way early. I don’t know what is going to happen while I am on my way.

      That is the real problem with that guy, although he is a last minute guy and would be even if he went by the de facto schedule which has been kept by all people at my pay level since I walked in the door back in the 80’s. Holy crap I’ve been here a long time. He is a bit of a squirrel.

  14. patty punker says:

    so um, i’m precisely 30 minutes late everywhere… where do i fall?

    • omawarisan says:

      you see, I’m cool with that. If you and I are going to be somewhere, I would know that is the way you work. Last minute people just make me feel like everything is teetering…are they going to make it?

  15. Betty says:

    Like you, I am the early person (must be a ’61 thing??). I love that you took it to the point where you scoped out his travel route.

    • omawarisan says:

      I had to. It was a science thing. I was sure he was just sitting in the lot. When he hit the gate at two minutes before the witching hour every day I was curious how he did it. It was amazing, nothing ever delayed him. He never hit traffic, all the stuff that happens to you and I, doesn’t happen to that guy and those like him.

  16. Lenore Diane says:

    How ’bout this … I am always early. Always. I cannot stand being late for anything. I am typically 15 minutes early for anything and everything. I equate it to the fact that my Mom is typically 15 minutes LATE for anything and everything. Anyway … if I am not 15 minutes early (because as you noted, things happen), I consider myself late. Sick.

  17. queensgirl says:

    You mean you don’t read the Chinese Nationalist Daily, Oma?

  18. Uh oh, this is an incendiary topic. Now Husband Dan and I disagree on what is acceptable. I’m a “I’ll arrive at the moment I’m supposed to.” NHD thinks that’s already late. And I have a friend who naver arrives any later than 15 before we are supposed to meet (sometimes she’s there 30 min early), thereby making me feel like I’m late when I’m not. When I ask her why she does that, she says “Oh, I didn’t know how long it would take me.” Really? It’s always the same drive. Makes me nuts.

    • omawarisan says:

      See, I never had anyone point out to me that they were affected by my arriving early. I still think NHD and I are right, but I don’t want to be too much in people’s heads by doing it.

      My friend Madam Band Director, my son’s hs band director taught her kids that on time is late and early is on time.

      It is the same drive, but things happen between here and there and I am always on the wrong side of those things. I have to have a cushion.

  19. spencercourt says:

    I’m an “early” person, especially if it involves limited things…like center section movie seats. When some latecomer wants us to move down a seat to accommodate his tardiness, I refuse. I will not enable that behavior.

  20. Spectra says:

    I used to be known for my lateness. Even as a school kid, I always had sleep problems and adhd, which deeply affect your morning focus, being foggy and half-concious. I learned, later in life, however, when I worked at jobs that called for an evening start, I was on time, or early. The problem went away. But mornings are still so unpredictable. So I can relate to last-minute-guy. He may have attentional issues and lots of anxiety-driven energy. He must drive to work in a panic every day.

    Once again, Oma, you’ve hit on a hot topic!

  21. planetross says:

    I always arrive early.
    People who arrive at the exact time drive me crazy … unless they are a student I’m teaching, then that’s awesome.
    People who arrive late are mentally listed as “not to be trusted”.

    note: “fashionably late” has gone out of fashion for me.

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