Deep thought 💭 on In defense of the habitually late

Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post:

And if you say “I’m running five minutes late” this, to me, translates to “Hey, you now have time to watch a 90 minute film before you get dressed!”

Then you are clearly incapable of living in modern society. I didn’t say watch a movie, I said I was delayed by 5 minutes. I am an “early person”, you should know that it pains me to tell you I will be late. I am late because of a situation that is truly out of my control, not that I am too lazy to use a clock and have a good sense of estimating time.

The curse of the habitually late person is to be surrounded by early people. Early people do not think of themselves as Early People. They think of themselves as Right. “You have to be early in order to be on time,” they point out. Being on time is important to them. The forty minutes between when they arrive ten minutes early in order to “scout the place out” and “get in line” and when you show up mumbling excuses is the time it takes them to perfect the reproachful but resigned expression they are wearing when you get there. It is an expression that would not look out of place on a medieval saint. It is luminous with a kind of righteous indignation, eyes lifted skyward to someone who appreciates the value of time, a sad, small smile curving the lips to show that they forgive you, because they always forgive you, because you know not what you do.

Wrong again. As an “Early person” with children, mind you, I am rarely not on time and with kids that is not a minor feat. I don’t look at you with righteous indignation, I am upset that you have wasted my time, my kids time, and my patience in dealing with my kids having to explain why you are not there yet.

Being late is a kind of optimism.

No it is not. It is a sign of laziness and an inability to budget one’s time.

To arrive 15 minutes after the scheduled time shows not disrespect for your hosts’ time, but a respect for their effort to make hosting seem like an effortless flow of magic.

Except through this entire article you have alluded to being 45 minutes to 2 hours late. Don’t think that you are showing a host respect by deliberately being late, particularly if the event involves food. Being married to a woman who loves to cook, your arrival time is paramount. If you are late, dishes get cold, sauces separate or curdle, items cooked to perfection start to get over cooked or soggy. You showing up late ruins the meal.

By this point, you have probably lost all sympathy for me.


The first comment on this piece will, I assume, be someone saying, “You sound like you are deeply self-centered and don’t care at all about the feelings of others, and I feel sorry for you.”

Yes. Except for the feeling sorry part.

And the thing is, all the evidence points to your being right, except for my feeble assertion that in my heart of hearts, I really do value your time, I never consciously intend to be late in a cruel way, and I am not the terrible person I appear. And that doesn’t go very far.

Your “heart of hearts” doesn’t save the meal or provide my children any comfort, so grow up and learn to manage your time.

And all this being said, the life of a late person is great. I don’t do it on purpose, but it has much to recommend it.


 You never have to stand alone in the rain anywhere waiting for anyone to assemble. Your host is never in the shower when you show up.

But that is the thing that being a late you don’t understand. I am the one waiting in the rain for you and you will never arrive early enough to catch me in the shower. I have my stuff together enough to plan and manage my time.

Early people, do you begin to see the appeal?

No. I see a selfish person.

Whatever joy you derive from indignantly sharing irate pieces entitled “How Did It Get To Be ‘Okay’ For People To Be Late For Everything?” pales in comparison to the joy of never having to wait for anyone.

_Except I am having to wait for you. _

Give me the option of being late or being early, and I will be late every time.
 Which, apparently, I am.

No you are not. Stop saying you are sorry when you are not, you self-focused asshole.

Published: Nov 1, 2013 @jeredb →