Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Value of Time

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Sometimes we continue to love our friends not for what they are, but in spite of what they are. I have a dear friend, one who I’ve known for a dozen years or more, one who has always been there for me, one who is just a good person in general. She is kind, funny and unfailingly generous, and I am blessed to have her in my life and want to keep her as a friend for as long as I live. Best of all, our husbands even like each other!


She has absoutely no concept of time. None. She has several beautiful watches, but I’m not quite sure she knows how to use any of them. She has never made any appointment on time. Any. Her late mother once confided in me that she was even born ten days late. After the first year or two - after I realized her tardyness was totally incurable - I stopped trying to change her, as she refused to accept that she had any kind of problem, saying that time didn’t matter that much. Well, maybe not to her, but I live on such a tight schedule that it was very important to me. I didn’t want to lose her friendship, and we had several arguments about the problem. So… I just lied. If we were to meet at lunch at 12 noon, I told her that we would meet at 11:30, and thus she nearly always manages to show up no later than 12:10 or 12:15. It’s a system that works well for both of us,... as long as she doesn’t know I’ve jiggered the time.

This is just about the only point on which we disagree; she feels that time is an artificial construct to which one should not be enslaved. I feel that to ignore time - especially when it wastes another’s time - is to show disrespect for the other person, in effect saying that their time is unimportant. Of course, I was trained by my father, who was a martinet about time and manners.

Most of my life my parents owed a well-respected advertising agency. I started working for them when I was nine. Deadlines are an important part of any media-based business (actually of any business) and I was raised that to miss a deadline was a sin, if not just about the worst sin one could commit. That training served me well in my subsequent careers in journalism and writing novels, and drove me crazy the decade I worked with actors. (It is amazing that some of  the flakier ones of them survived!) I would sooner commit a felony than miss a deadline.

Of course, as I live in a very large city where the bad traffic is legendary, sometimes even if you build in time for travel something happens and you’re stuck for X amount of time. That’s part of life in the big city and you accept it. It just doesn’t happen every time you meet someone for lunch, though! (And that’s where cell phones are a blessing.)

If my friend were this consistently tardy just with me, I wouldn’t call her a friend, no matter how sweet or funny she was. She is this way with everyone and everything. Her husband says she was even late for their wedding, and quite honestly I don’t know if he’s kidding or not!

So, being a believer that you play with what you’re dealt, I go on lying about our meeting times and, since I bought a tablet that fits cozily in my purse, have managed to get a good deal of writing done while waiting. So much so, in fact, that I might start considering telling her the actual lunch times!

(You might have noticed that I'm blogging on a different day. A re-scheduling of our Classic and Cozy blog roster has moved me from first Wednesday to first Thursday. So - look for me here every month at this same time.)


  1. Fun post. I also have a friend who cannot get anywhere on time. Even when she tells me she's going out the door, still manages to show up late. But I love her anyway. And I try to remember that I have a few flaws that undoubtedly drive her nuts.

  2. I think must have a friend like yours. My husband and I are both prompt or early for everything we do. We have several friends who are constantly late, but we deal with them the way you do. Giggle the time! I guess to be a good friend, you must accept people as they are, even if it means sitting around waiting!

  3. I know someone like this as well and it kind of drives me crazy since I'm pretty compulsive about time. We handle it the same way, telling this person that things start earlier than they really do. I don't mind since I know that's the way they are. What does drive me crazy is when doctors or others consistently keep me waiting well beyond my appointment time. It galls me that they don't have any respect for the value of my time.

  4. My older son was always like that--always late. Just the reverse of my husband who comes early. But now as an adult, our son learned not to be late since it matters for his work.

  5. This was interesting to read. I don't have any friends like that, but I can imagine how aggravating it would be. My husband, my kids, and I are always a bit early or right on time. Once we all showed up in arestaurant parking lot within seconds of each other. It wad pretty funny. I think your solution is wonderful. Just hoping your friend doesn't read your blog post!

  6. Great post! I know folks who have no concept of time also.
    Good luck and God's blessings

  7. My eldest son was like that and I did what you do with your friend, told him things were going to happen 1/2 hour earlier than I told anyone else. Have some others in the family who can't get anywhere on time, but I'm too old to worry about them. Fun post.

  8. I've had friends like that and was once in a live-in relationship with someone who didn't get it. Like me (I was then a TV news producer), he had work deadlines, but at home those fell away. Not for me. After a year of tapping my foot as I waited, apologizing, trying various strategies, and even going to therapy, I packed my stuff and moved - to another time zone.

  9. I'm a slave to time and deadlines when other people are involved. Since I don't have an agent or publisher pushing me with deadlines on my second book, I tend to put it last and the guilt is tugging at me. I like how you arranged your time to accommodate your friend's latest. It's a good way to stay friends.

  10. My husband is always punctual and despises being late. I have learned that being late is a sign of disrespect, the "I'm more important than your time" attitude. Being late is a conscious effort: doing that one more thing before you go out the door and then that leads to the other 'one more thing'. Unless there is a mighty good reason - like a car crash or hurricane etc. I have no patience for even my being tardy. I'm slightly more generous with very good friends and I do have a few who are late or fail to show up. If they are consistent, I stop depending on them or make my own arrangements to arrive at a mutual destination. My time is money and I can't afford to let someone else misuse it. Good suggestions, though for your friends who are late but chances are they'll find out and discover ways to be even later.

  11. I have difficulty getting somewhere on time. There's always some last-minute problem at home, or I have to go back for something I forgot, or there's a detour on the road, or something. I start out half an hour early! This has been a lifelong curse. I have no control over it other than getting up a few hours early, checking over and OVER on the dog or the oven or whatever it is that could need me at the last moment to try to head that off, and taking all day to get dressed. I also feel that continuous time is an artificial construct, but in honors Physics Dr. Loisel insisted that it is real here on Earth because it's a variable in Einstein's equations, so there. I have had to acknowledge it ever since.

    The deal with doctors is--you wait half an hour for a general practitioner and an hour for a specialist. They are trying to give their all to each patient before you, and it catches up with them. They don't mean to disrespect you or whatever. It's just that the get a few minutes behind on the first patient, and then some more on the second, then they take a call from the hospital or another specialist and talk for a few minutes, perhaps have to take a bathroom break, and by the time they get to you they're running late. It's not at all that they don't know your time has value. They're just trying to save as many as they can, every day.

    I don't think that anyone who is habitually tardy is trying to send you a message or whatever. It is just an aspect of their existence, like being cheerful or "realistic" most of the time, or introvert/extrovert. Don't believe that your time is more important than someone else's, or else you will become a Type A and unable to smell the roses along the way.

  12. Great piece! I have to say it hit a chord with me because I'm like your friend, just about always late for everything. It's not that I don't respect deadlines, I don't think, but that I overfill my schedule. However, I wasn't late for my wedding--because my father wouldn't let me and I'm hardly ever late for court. But back to my everyday life and my tardy problem. I do vow and perhaps your friend does too that I will improve. I'm not sure if it will ever happen, but I keep on trying.