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In Defense of the Art of Tardiness

The timely and the tardy — a battle as old as time, a balance that every human must navigate once the words “You’re late again” are first uttered. Some of us are born untimely, and some of us are made it. Sometimes it takes a devastating combination of both to create an individual so untimely that the event is long over before the person even arrives (we all know one). Being nine days late to my own birth, I count myself among these.

It’s not that we cannot read time or manage it properly, it’s simply that we operate on a different schedule altogether. Our clocks are slower, more bendable — and we perceive time through the most optimistic of lenses. Cleverly, we blame our tardiness on all of life’s minor inconveniences, a passionate art form in itself. Never the culprits, the universe conspires against us: traffic jams, exploding ovens, dogs eating our computers (it had my homework on it!), or even city-wide blackouts that result in all four of my devices failing me. Whatever the situation, we always have the decency to provide a dramatic and entertaining tale to justify our belatedness.

In our defense, we were not always procrastinating fictionists. Every chronically-late individual has their villain origin story: the memory that haunts their very soul, justifying their untimely nature and fuelling the leisurely pace through which they walk through life. Maybe it was arriving 30 minutes early to a concert to get good seats, only to be left in the below freezing cold of the night for half an hour while your friend continued to text “I’m five minutes away!”. Or perhaps it was months of waiting in the lobby of your friend's building, aged 12, while the doorman stared you down as if you were a dangerous stalker.

Whatever it may be, this revelation for the chronically late is something akin to the most holy of experiences — a baptism or oracle vision of sorts. The second you discern that your lateness has truly no (or little) consequences, a world of possibilities reveals itself to you.

The world begins to move at our own pace, reducing the stressful pace of our daily lives. If my breakfast is at 9:30, I would be an absolute fool to even dare to leave the comfort of my goose-down-linen-duvet and thousand-parakeet-feather-mattress to brave the cold breeze of my room any earlier than 9:26.

And it is only with the most trust and intimacy that we late-goers set extended times for our family and beloved friends. We know that you have memorised our patterns, our ways of life, our slowed pace, and our coded language.

I expect my friends to understand that “I’m coming down now!” really means “I’m drying my hair and still need to apply mascara — take a lap”. They know that if the last free entry is at midnight, they should insist the club’s cruel cutoff is at 11:00, for my perfect tardy arrival at 11:59. And the chronically-late can’t help but revel in the affection that accompanies: the constant time checks, or the “are you almost ready”, to which you'll always roll your eyes and respond “obviously” despite still being sat watching TV in your pyjamas.

A late person will never face the embarrassment of sitting across from an empty dinner seat for long minutes at a time, or appear disheveled and rushed. We bask in our confidence: for when we arrive the world begins again, as if magically frozen by our absence. We enjoy a grand dramatic entrance, eyes all on you as you are the last to arrive, the final piece to the puzzle.

But our untimeliness is not purely selfish. For our ‘early’ counterparts we grant the opportunity to let out a sigh of relief at our arrival and a grand surprise if by miracle we do arrive at a reasonable moment. And for the timely to have their sense of righteousness and ‘accomplishment’, they must have their villain to challenge.

Now, as I submit this article moments only significantly past the deadline, I can’t help but reminisce on all the torture I’ve inflicted with my distorted punctuality. There’s a charm in the fashionably late, it's an art, it's a lifestyle and most importantly: it's timeless

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

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