Does Being On Time Mean Anything Anymore?

A Dad's Point of View by Bruce SallanWith all the wonderful technology at our fingertips, one would think that keeping track of appointments and being on time would be easier than ever.  I suspect that punctuality is largely going the way of shame and honesty, and becoming less ubiquitous, less obligatory.  Texting that there’s traffic delaying one’s arrival is the new excuse for not leaving on time in the first place.  Is this good?  How does this affect our kids?  And, like with the relative loss of shame and honesty, how will this affect their work dealings?

I remember, during my single days, having a friend who was chronically late whenever we’d meet for a dinner and movie get-together.  I’d arrive on time and he’d just saunter in 20-30 minutes late with hardly an apology.  I think everyone has a friend like that who gets away with it because of his or her incredibly charming personality and charisma.  That was the case with “Barry.”  Barry charmed all his friends and all his friends just accepted this “quirk” of his.

Not me.  I didn’t want to lose his friendship but I came up with a solution that he readily accepted and made me feel that my time was honored and respected, as a result.  We agreed that whoever came second, if it was more than 10 minutes after the scheduled meeting time, would pick up the tab.  Voila!  I got there on time, brought reading with me (way before laptops and “smart” phones), relaxed, and when Barry showed up late, I greeted him with an enthusiastic “Hello” and proceeded to order Lobster!  Win-Win.

That story is true and “Barry” is still late.  He’s also extremely generous to all his friends, still has that amazing charm, and all his friends still put up with this poor trait of his.  But, my idea is not the solution or the answer to the prevailing nature of this minor epidemic of manners in our world today.

Do parents model punctuality for their kids?  Do parents teach their kids to be on time and explain why it matters?  I think less and less so, because parents are so harried in their lives that they’re often the late ones and, rather than be hypocritical, they let it slide.  Thus they’ve begun to slip down that proverbial slippery slope.

With the friends of my kids, there truly seems to be no sense of commitment when they make plans together.  I often react in a totally puzzled manner when my older son tells me his plans with friends have changed for no apparent reason.  I ask why and he glosses over it with a “that’s the way it is with my friends” casual response.  For the most part, he isn’t all that upset when he ends with no plans on a weekend evening due to the flakiness of a friend or two.

I don’t get it.  What am I missing?  Even with formal events such as weddings, Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, and other such occasions that include “formal” invitations with RSVP envelopes, I’ve found the current trend to be much more lax than in the past.  People will call; after they’ve RSVP’d, and either cancel for a relatively “lame” reason or casually ask if they can bring a visiting friend or kid who was not on the invitation in the first place?

And, this is done with no sense of its inappropriate nature.  That is what puzzles me the most.  Were my peers not raised with similar manners and mores as I was or my wife, as she is totally appropriate when it comes to this sort of affair?

I don’t have an answer, but I have some guesses and suspicions why this has developed in recent times.  It starts with the fact that we hear and see so many stories about “celebrities” or “public figures” perpetuating a crime or social faux pas and paying little or no price for it.   In some cases, as with the notorious and suspicious release of sexual interludes on video, it even creates more fame and attention for the celebrity at the same time they’re claiming to be horrified at the dissemination of the video or photos in the first place.

Politicians get caught fudging the facts constantly, to be kind, and rarely seem to pay the price.  Sports stars and actors sometimes seem to literally get away with murder!

So, why should we make a special effort to be on time?  If “they” can get away with these egregious things, maybe our own little gaffes mean nothing?  A theory. Perhaps, it’s one of the reasons our public sense of manners has deteriorated so much and being on time seems to have gone the way of the 8-track tape.

But, as with so many of these changes, I don’t approve, or accept this sort of behavior from my kids.  I definitely model punctuality.  When my kids get an invitation, we RSVP right away if they can and want to go.  If they have plans with a friend, and something better comes along, I don’t let them slip out of their original commitment.  It all starts with us, so let’s all hold the line on “being on time” and following more of the “P’s” and “Q’s” most of us were raised with!

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