Friday, November 20, 2009

On Time?

So, here's the thing. How do you feel about punctuality?

I have never been to Africa but my friend, who regularly visits Nairobi, describes the church in the slum village he attends. The time of the service is 'Sunday morning.' Everyone knows that. The first person to arrive tidies round a bit and chases out any dangerous critters. The second person joins the first in singing. Over the next four hours people come and go until all have left. In the middle of this are notices, children's groups, fervent prayers, amazing singing and a long, long sermon plus a few other talks.

I love the idea. I could live with this. It is a concept that has no word for 'late.' Just as in the silent carriages of a train you get annoyed by voices that wouldn't otherwise have bothered you, only in a country with a concept of a starting time do we find lateness a problem. Or do we?

Clearly not all do. A colleague of mine was recently 20 minutes late for a meeting and then left 50 minutes early. It was a two hour meeting. Missed 58% of it. Not apparently bothered.

My church has a strange start time. It's 1015. I asked about this and was told it was moved because at 1000 everyone was always five minutes late. Guess what? Lots of people are still five minutes late. We could chase the start time to tomorrow morning and it would make no difference.

Although I penalise the late not the punctual, so I try to start things on time, there are a number of meetings here where there are simply not enough people present at the advertised start time to begin. Or the point of a discussion has to be explained several times in the first ten minutes.

If someone important to events or meetings is regularly late they steal time off those who were ready on time. The laid-back are cool about being late; the punctual become stressed. Should I become more laid back? I thought I was but constant late starts and constant over-runnings to compensate are taking their toll. Should I become more ruthless? Should I move to Africa?

I'm not sure I want answers, I am allergic to critters, but I feel better having got that out. Good morning.


anna p said...

It's all a bt of a 'being tolerant and respectful' balancing act, isn't it?

Not so good to disregard others and just turn up when the hell you like (in a culture like our own anyway!)

But neither so good to get incredibly riled by the IDIOT who's late. (like I always do) Maybe they have a good reason.....

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who always likes to be punctual ....
The start time was changed because at that time clergy had to do a 9.00 service at the main church and then come down to us when it was communion weeks and they just couldn't make 10.00. It wasn't actually because of the latecommers. But we did notice that the latecomers were still late. - And they're not the present day late comers.
One problem with meetings is knowing whether the advertised start time is the actual start time. At one time everything was 7.30 for a 7.45 start. (Sometimes with coffee served in the first 15 minutes) One day I turned up at about 7.40 to find the meeting in full swing because the person running it had decided that 7.30 was the actual start time.
I once read that punctual people waste a lot of time across their lifetime because they turn up early and waste the time before the event starts!
I still get stressed if I'm late.