We’ve all heard the old saw about how it’s de rigueur to be fashionably late. We once, many years ago, arrived very late (I won’t say how late) to a dinner party and were mortified to find everybody else already seated at the dinner table. So, the next time we were invited to dinner (somewhere else, I hasten to add), I pushed my wife to get there on the dot only to be greeted at the door by the host and hostess in their bath robes. What we learned was that it was rude to arrive on time and also rude to arrive an hour late. On time to a party, it appears, is a half hour late.
On the other hand, late to a business meeting is ALWAYS rude. My thinking is that an appointment is a contract, and, when you are late, you have broken the contract and stolen (yes, stolen) the other person’s time.
I produce networking round-tables in New York City, among other places. The meetings are called for 8:00 AM, but I never start the meeting before 8:15 because travel in and around NYC can be an adventure. Since I start the meeting with a description of how the meeting will proceed, we don’t actually start for another 5 minutes. And yet, it never ceases to amaze me that there is always at least one person who wanders in even later. Oh, they always apologize, but it remains that they have tacitly stated that they don’t give a rat’s patootie about those who have already presented. Essentially, they want you to pay attention to them without the obligation of having to listen to you.
Sometimes, I know, being late is unavoidable. You left home early enough, but traffic on the Palisades (GW Bridge, Major Deegan, LIE, etc.) was at a standstill for an hour and, as a consequence, you were late. However, when it’s the same people, time after time, I can only conclude that they are just RUDE.
George Patton, Third Army CO during WWII, was once conducting a staff meeting. One of his Division Commanders, a Major General, was late and told Patton that his jeep had a flat tire on the way to the meeting. Patton’s retort was to the effect that one doesn’t come to his meetings late. Next time, come the night before so that you don’t find yourself in this position again.
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