but actually, don’t be tardy to the party

There’s a new app called Twist that notifies people that you’re running late because you opted to blatantly disrespect the rest of the world’s time in favor of playing an extra five minutes of Fruit Ninja. The New York Times informs us that this is because the founders were perpetually running late to meetings with one another and, instead of leaving their apartments five minutes earlier, decided to start a company. I can’t help but think that it would have been a more effective use of their time to just, like, not be late.

I abhor lateness. I think it’s a side effect of growing up in the performing arts. It would have been a cold day in hell before I’d roll into Miss Monika’s ballet class even ten seconds late. When you’re told constantly that you’re expendable, which is the main lesson that young women of average talent and looks in the world of dance and theatre are taught, you do whatever you can to make yourself stand out. For me, that meant developing a reputation for timeliness and preparation. (I’m not sure if it really counted for much in college when I’d show up for rehearsal a half hour early, then pass out in the corner on top of my backpack until it was time for me to dance, but points for showing up, right?)

My company, which prides itself on efficiency and an incredibly low level of office bullshit, thrives on a culture of lateness. I get the feeling that this is a systemic problem in Silicon Valley (and Alley, and Prairie, and wherever else people are making a killing through means other than uranium mining). I have scheduled 30-minute conferences calls, sat on an empty line for fifteen minutes before giving up, and then received emails saying “Hey, where were you? I called in and the line was empty.” It is not rare to see someone get up from their desk at 11:05 to leave for an 11:00 meeting… in a building that’s seven minutes away. It is so contrary to the life-hacking ideals that most of my techie coworkers espouse that it confounds me. How do people not understand that if we all committed to not being late all the damn time, everything would run more functionally?

(I should note that nobody is ever late to a meal. In fact, our “Kitchen Ops” team practically has to beat people off with a stick in the morning to keep them away from breakfast before it’s ready to be served. Maybe if we served home fries at every meeting, people would get there on time.)

Lateness isn’t confined to companies staffed by overgrown teenagers with ergonomic keyboards. Some people subscribe to the idea that “fashionably late” is anything but a douchey phrase that irresponsible people use to hide the fact that they don’t know how to tell time. I have never in my life been tardy for the party. On the contrary, I once arrived so early to a party that the hostess was still in the shower. Since then, I’ve discovered myriad benefits to arriving early:

  • First dibs on the hors d’ouevres. Why does it always seem like the guacamole is gone by the time you get there? Yeah, that was me. Enjoy those Brazil nuts, fashionably late scumbags.

  • Mitigating social awkwardness by pregaming the arrival of everyone else. Do you, like me, suffer from a near-paralytic fear at the thought of having to interact with large groups of people, to the point that you’d rather blog alone in your apartment than be a functioning human? Get there early and drink yourself friendly in the warm company of the host and their houseplants! (In a college or broke young adult setting, this has an advantage similar to the above in that you will get first dibs on the middle-shelf booze and will not have to suffer the indignity of shooting tequila that came in a bottle capped by a plastic sombrero.)

If you’re constantly late, I encourage you to ask yourself a series of question to improve your punctuality:

Am I a grown-ass human?

If “yes,” then you are too old to oversleep. You are too old not to understand that if your route takes 15-20 minutes depending on traffic, you need to leave yourself 21 minutes. You are too old to change your outfit more than two times before you leave for an event. (Okay, three. No, I couldn’t decide what jeans to wear tonight either. Skinny? Sort-of skinny? Skinny-only-after-laundering? Would-have-been-skinny-if-I-hadn’t-had-six-beers-last-night?)

Do I rely on public transportation?

If “yes,” then may God have pity on your soul, especially if that public transportation is the 7 train. Or the Red Line. Or the Caltrain, whose tracks are often confused for parking lots. Occasional lateness due to single-tracking between every station in the entire Washington metro area is excused. Habitual lateness due to your pigheaded inability to understand that the 2 train runs approximately once every two hours on the weekends is unacceptable.

Do I frequently schedule meetings back-to-back in locations that are more than zero seconds apart?

If “yes,” stop.

Do I frequently get lost?

If “yes,” I sympathize. Assume you’re going to get lost every time you leave your apartment. Leave earlier.

Is it raining?

If “yes,” you should have left 20 minutes ago.

This is a call to arms or, more accurately, a call to wrists. Is it ten minutes before your appointment? Does it take you eight minutes to get to your destination if you hit all the green lights? Leave two minutes ago, for you never know when a tiny, raging, hopelessly punctual woman with a lot of really well-sharpened pencils is lying in wait. 

P.S. I was late to lunch with a friend yesterday because I was trying to figure out how to use my new French press. Nobody’s perfect.

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