The crime of tardiness | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 27, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:13 AM, August 27, 2019


The crime of tardiness

Have you ever waited for a friend or an acquaintance so long that you fell asleep? I did. Once I had woken up from a power nap only to find that my guests, who were supposed to grace my humble abode 2 hours’ prior, had not even left their home yet! Perception of time is a complex matter; while to some people, 6 o’clock means 6 o’clock, to others, 6 o’clock is 7:00, 7:30 or even 8 o’clock.

Every “deshi” wedding begins at 7:30 in the evening as per the invitation card. No, never. If you ever arrive at a wedding reception at 7:30PM, you will find the entire venue deserted. The uniformed waiters will give you strange looks. The bride and the groom are always late to their own wedding, so are their guests and sometimes, the Mughlai wedding cuisine. At a friend’s wedding in Dhaka, I had waited until 10PM for the food to be served. When the clock struck past 10, because it was getting late, I left the party on an empty stomach that was grumbling loudly enough for anyone standing next to me to hear. Not many agonies can measure up to the agony of attending a wedding and not being able to eat the sumptuous wedding dishes!

I have often found myself in awkward situations because of my timeliness. Tardy Bangladeshis who come to live abroad also bring their tardiness with them. Their clothes and English accents change, but their sense of time remains very much unchanged. I arrived at people’s houses here in the U.S. only to learn that they were not expecting me to arrive so early (read, on time). One family was not up from their good night’s sleep when we rang their doorbell at 12PM. They invited us to go over at 12:00 to have lunch with them, and so we did, but only to discover them in their pajamas. To this day, I do not know who were more embarrassed that day, the guests or the hosts.

People showing up late for lunch or dinner to my place is very common, yet I finish all the preparations in time, secretly hoping that my guests would be maximum 10 minutes late. People are usually 30 minutes to 2 hours late. The food grows cold and I have to reheat it all in the microwave oven, something which I do not like to do because food always tastes better when warmed on the stove. But I feel physically and mentally drained when I have to wait for someone too long. By the time my tardy guests arrive, I am usually tired and to some degree, irritated, so I just reheat the dishes in the microwave oven.

People who are chronically late do not value their own time or the time of others. One of the few attributes of a person that troubles me is a person’s tardiness. I actively try not to make a person wait for me; I think it is unfair on any person. When I have an appointment, I am usually present at the spot at least 5 minutes before time. I would rather be early than late for anything. And if I am ever late, I always let the other person know. But a lot of people do not have the courtesy to text or call the person waiting to tell them that they are running late. People who are always late make the lives of other people, who respect time, difficult. I have lost countless hours from my life simply because someone did not appear on time. 

Time is precious! Every second gone is gone for good. You cannot rewind time even if you bang your head against a wall one-hundred times. Your skull will likely crack but the time lost won’t come back.

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