Todays my500words challenge is to write about waiting.  I chose to mix waiting and being punctual.



My Dad taught me to be punctual. When he said I had to be back at nine, he would be behind the door waiting to check I didn’t overstep, even by a minute or two. He had very innovative ways of punishing me if I didn’t adhere to his timetable.

I don’t want to assign him as the primary culprit, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been afraid of being late. For most of my appointments with people I arrive early and wait.

If it’s to catch a bus or a train I arrive early and wait for fear of missing it.

Somehow I’ve come to expect it from others too. If we agree to meet at a specific time, I’m always there before, and if they are not on time, it has always been a question of how long I’m prepared to wait before leaving. Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes, but when I’m feeling particularly severe I’ve even left the rendezvous point after just ten minutes.

I often fantasise about arriving late, and it’s fun to invent innovative reasons for explaining my lateness. Over the years I’ve probably heard them all anyway, but there is some sort of malicious pleasure in finding extreme reasons, like being held up by aliens or receiving an unexpected phone call from the Queen.

It’s only natural, therefore, that I’ve suffered over the years and seem to have spent my whole life waiting. I’ve found that people are rarely punctual but arriving early most of the time, I’ve had to wait a lot longer than if I’d just arrived on time.

I keep a mental note for friends and acquaintances. I know in advance those that will be late, those that will be either there on time, or like me, and there are a few, those that will arrive early.

Waiting is a pain, but there are ways to compensate.

The choice of the meeting point is of primordial importance. Never on a street corner, or in front of a public monument. As far as possible inside, rather than outside, specially in the winter or in case of inclement weather. Better just to arrange your meeting indoors in a public place, preferably with comfortable seating and access to drinks and snacks.

If you have arranged a rendezvous in a café, time flies over a croissant and a freshly ground expresso, and there is probably WiFi which is always an excellent way of eating time.

Perversely, could it be that punctuality is no longer a priority and it’s easier to be late, specially if you think that the rendezvous point is comfortable and the person you’re meeting will be just fine waiting a little longer.

Waiting is so much more complicated these days with the advent of the mobile phone. So many ways of announcing that you are either held up, stuck in traffic or just five minutes away.

Then there is the rolling meeting, arranged for ten, then rearranged for ten fifteen, or ten twenty, or half past ten. You’ve been there since ten minutes to ten of course.

All of this was impossible to do before the advent of the mobile phone. A letter through the letterbox could only arrange the time and place and even a telephone call at home to change the time of a rendezvous gave you ample time to prepare for it.

Waiting is such a waste of time. While you are uselessly waiting, you could have been doing so many other entertaining or instructive things.

If everyone was on time, even for just one day, just think of the increased productivity.

So don’t make people wait. Be punctual.

Punctuality is the antidote to waiting. (620 words)

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