What Mel Did
What Mel Did - Calling time on lateness

Calling time on lateness

Our adult ticks are usually rooted in childhood, like our relaxed attitude to tardiness – or not!

On one of the first dates with my late husband, he turned up at the agreed London wine bar to find me not there. I had left because he was 45 minutes late. Talking to him later on the phone, he was incredulous I would knowingly let him schlep from the countryside to London to sit next to an empty barstool.

A fitting end to this modern fairytale is, of course, my husband learnt his lesson and was never late again when meeting me. In truth, it ran about 60:40 most of the time in my favour.

My husband wasn’t to know that my abhorrence of lateness stemmed from my childhood. Raised in a strict household, my siblings and I did not enjoy too many outings. Indeed, the usual young people pursuits of cinema-going and  k-i-s-s-i-n-g  in any tree didn’t look likely to happen until our late 20’s, or possibly when we’d left home. Understand, then, the rare announcement by my father of a Sunday trip to see a favoured aunt and uncle and our cousins was a rare but delicious treat.

Except an irregular pattern emerged which cured us of believing the trip would happen when the appointed day came. There were many occasions when our ‘Sunday Best’ would be discarded in disappointment as we either waited for our father to get home – or, when he did eventually arrive, to remember he had promised the treat in the first place. Raised in a very old-school household, it certainly wouldn’t have been our place to remind him. We, therefore, waited… and waited… and waited.

In those days, I was powerless to affect the outcome of someone’s being late. I had to put up and shut up. Not so now that I am an adult. Although, it’s not that I don’t give people permission to be late for a date with me. No. It’s just that I usually make a more powerful date with my self-esteem, and not watch it seep away as I wait for you to remember to meet me – on time.

Published in the Eastern Daily Press February 2017


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  • I am totally with you on this. I almost have a phobia about being late for anything which also stems from a childhood of waiting for my mother to spring clean the house before she could leave it and never being on time for anything. On holiday we would enter a restaurant five minutes before they finished serving lunch or dinner (no all-day opening in those days) and I would squirm with embarrassment, knowing that we were putting them all out.

    Nowadays if someone leaves me waiting in a cafe it means they don’t value my time as much as they value their own, I can wait and put my other chores on hold while they finish what they want to do. People who do this don’t think of it that way of course, they just think they are amusingly disorganised. Well we are not amused and like you, I won’t wait past a reasonable time.

    I love this post – it spoke straight to my heart.

    • There is a ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ episode about a husband who torments his wife who has a phobia about lateness. He would delay on purpose with jobs and errands that didn’t usually need doing. On one such occasion, and in exasperation, she leaves the taxi taking them to the airport to see what the hell he’s up to. This time, he’s actually stuck in the lift shouting for help. She leaves him there, goes on holiday and sends him chatty postcards knowing full well he would have died in that lift! Is it wrong I LOVE this episode? ?