A Tolerance for Tardiness

We all have triggers. In one moment we’re fine, but within five minutes that little vein in the side of our necks slowly begin to make an appearance.

While some people can wait in lines for hours at Kings Island, or walk behind couples in the hallways too busy confessing their love for each other to walk up the steps, I cannot.

I can’t, I just cannot do it. My threshold of patience only allows me to stand in a line for about thirty minutes, leaving no room for tolerance of the “No you hang up” lovebirds.

My preference for fast-paced everything–plot lines, waiting lines, videos–has caused me to develop a pet-peeve for tardiness. I hate being late for things, and I hate it when things start late.

While you would think this would be the general consensus–that people would prefer to be ten minutes early rather than the opposite–that’s not always the case.

This year the state of Ohio required all freshmen to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is just a fancy name they created for a standardized test that earns groans from both teachers and their students. (Totally off topic, but my teacher pointed out to me that the acronym spells CCRAP backwards which I personally think is more fitting). Anyway, in the midst of this prolonged assessment, I received an article discussing different cultures’ perception of time and timeliness.

The author documented his experiences while travelling and noted that while in the foreign country, he would often show up for events scheduled for one time that wouldn’t actually start until approximently an hour later. When he asked the locals about their tardiness, they responded saying they’re not late, Americans are just acustomed to a more strict time schedule.

This idea can be illustrated among different cultures in social settings such as restaurants or parties. In an American restaurant the waiter seats you, takes your order, delivers the bill, and pushes you out the resturaunt within the hour. In contrast, when I travelled to Paris over spring break, they would bring out your food and would refuse to give you the bill until after you ate everything and discussed world events from the 1700s until present day.

My friends whose families are of Middle-Eastern decent always joke about parties their parents throw where people don’t even show up until what was supposed to be an hour and a half into the festivities.

With everyone adjusted to their own cultural clock, who knows? Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not late, maybe we’re just early.


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