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Chapman: Punctuality is trending and it’s about time | comment

A few days ago, while my wife and I were staying in a beach community on Lake Michigan, my 34-year-old son came to visit. He had a two hour drive and told me he would arrive around 11am. Given the vagaries of road construction and traffic delays, I wasn’t expecting it. I was on the porch when he drove in. My clock showed 10:59 am

I should have expected that. In this family, “late” is a four-letter word. I can’t remember a single instance of my three offspring where, as adults, they showed up late or made me wait significantly long. It is much more likely that they will arrive earlier.

A few years ago my daughter dated an otherwise fine young man who showed up half an hour late for a second date, prompting him to understand the seriousness of his mistake. He matched her expectations well enough that they eventually got married. He was at the venue with time.

He was ahead of a trend with his newfound appreciation for punctuality. A recent article in The New York Times was headlined “Fashionably Late Fades Out” and noted a change it attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As video conferencing became the norm for many office workers nationwide, commuting to work or workplace gossip no longer held up people who previously struggled with being on time,” wrote Katherine Rosman.

Excuses are harder to come by these days. Linda Ong, head of a Los Angeles consulting firm, told the Times, “There was less tolerance for delays because it’s expected that you have more control over your time and therefore should be on time.” It’s even more annoying than a Zoom meeting Waiting for a Zoom meeting to start.

I like to think that the children who grew up in my household learned from my example. With a long daily commute and a busy family life, I was strict – well, maybe obsessive – about sticking to a schedule. Maybe I inherited this trait from my mother, who considers it a sin to miss 6pm without a glass of wine.

Punctuality is a humble virtue that may not get you to heaven. But it has a certain value in my profession. Newspaper journalism has deadlines and waits for no one. My submissions may be good or bad, but believe me, editors would rather receive an inferior article than a better one.

Admittedly, this compulsion is not sympathetic to anyone who values ​​spontaneity above all else. You could say that it makes me the eternal unpaid servant of the clock. Any one of us who is committed to punctuality is plagued by fears that do not afflict people who see time as something waiting for them.

This group includes some of our Presidents. Joe Biden, who is not one to cut a tightrope or a conversation, is invariably late, so his helpers set their watches to Biden Standard Time. The rarest occurrences in the Clinton White House were meetings that started on schedule. Donald Trump was particularly late on important things like recalling insurgents and admitting to the 2020 election.

Perhaps they were all chosen because so many Americans share their late ways. Such carefree souls enjoy a spiritual freedom some of us will never experience. They can arrive 30 minutes after the agreed time – or an hour or more – without regret or possibly even realizing that others have been harassed.

People like me, on the other hand, have the nagging feeling that there is no such thing as punctuality. If I’m not early, I’m late.

Fortunately, my wife shares this attitude. If we have a 2pm flight, we usually agree to be at the airport by 1am, which means leaving home no later than 12:15pm. But once we start worrying about potential freeway congestion, parking issues, and safety lines, we tend to keep putting our departure time back until we set off at sunrise, wondering if we’ve procrastinated too long.

Today, however, chronic latecomers find fewer opportunities to be accommodated. As you adjust to living in a punctual world, I suggest that you keep in mind Yogi Berra’s observation: “It gets early late out here.”

Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13.

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