Some time ago, I found this link on a friend’s website “Sorry I’m Late”. The article describes a situation to which most teachers are accustomed: students straggling in late to class. After being vexed by this problem repeatedly, the irate prof confronts his students whereupon he learns that the customs related to time at that university differed quite a bit from his expectations: class start times were presumed to being 15 minutes after their scheduled times by a campus-wide policy. The prof took this as a sign of institutionalized tardiness. He proceeds in his essay to list what he believes to be the cause of chronic lateness. His first example is quite clever. Some people, he says, are Platonically late. This person uses an ideal impression of travel time to an appointment as if it were or ever could be “actual” time. I was amused! After all, I am chronically late, and that is totally me. I kept reading. Here, the argument became more and more acidic, culminating in the tongue in cheek comment: “There are obvious remedies, but they involve beheading late people in the hallway with a broadsword.”
Upon finishing the essay, my first thought was “well, that was pretty harsh.” What I was not prepared for was the vitriol that followed in the comments section:
“They’re simply selfish jerks who don’t care they they’re wasting everyone’s time.”
“…they’re arrogant and self-centered, or just too lazy to actually keep a schedule.”
The word a****** was hurled on both sides of the issue.
The combined upshot of the article and comments boils down to this: the chronically late are arrogant, self-absorbed, incompetent, and stupid. Thanks. Is it true? Perhaps it is true of some. I couldn’t say. But it made me wonder if it could apply to me. Am I arrogant, self-absorbed, incompetent, and stupid? On my worse days for self-esteem, I could certainly buy into the latter two, but the former two, to someone lacking self-esteem, seem antithetical. I suppose that to a certain degree depression could be defined as a form of self-absorption. After all, if I hate myself, it’s all about me, isn’t it? So, maybe I am self-absorbed–but arrogant? Do I really think that my time is more important than others’ time? I wish I did. I would probably enjoy myself a lot more. If I did, I wouldn’t feel guilty about being late AT ALL. I would do whatever I wanted! God! I wish I thought that way. *sigh* So, it’s hilarious to be accused of such a thing.
Anyone who stumbled across The Chronicle of Higher Education might assume it to be a forum for the intelligent debate and discussion of issues related to the academy. Often this is the case. However, even the casual Chronicle reader knows that the so-called intellectual debates can deteriorate into a not-so-friendly series of retorts. This debate about time, however, turned downright mean.
How can people become so outraged about this issue? No one likes to wait for people who arrive late, but I’ve never thought it was an assault on my person if a student arrived late to class. I’ve never felt it to be a personal insult. In fact, I think you have to be pretty self-absorbed to think that anyone’s tardiness or lack of same has anything to do with what he or she thinks of you. Maybe some of these people who are so profoundly enraged should consider what it means about them that they can be so deranged by someone else’s behavior.
Here’s some real advice without the rancor. Always Late?