Picture this: you and your friend agreed to meet in front of a restaurant at 12 PM. and it's 12:10. You got there at 11:55, so you've been waiting in front of the place for 15 minutes now. The hostess inside is side-eyeing you for loitering and passersby glance at you pityingly as you shift from foot to foot. You decide to walk to a CVS nearby and try to look busy as you wait for news from your friend. Your phone vibrates and you pull it out of your pocket at lightning speed, only to read the message: "Just got to 34th Street Station! I'll be there in 5." You glance up at the street sign outside the CVS, which reads 94th Street, and you know that it'll be at least 20 minutes before your friend gets here.
We've all received those texts from people who are running late; chances are, we've even sent them ourselves. As a native New Yorker, I grew up using the infamous MTA subway and bus system, so I understand the occasional lateness due to an unexpected delay. I like to give my friends the benefit of the doubt when they're running late because God knows I've kept people waiting plenty of times. I can immediately empathize with my friends as they rush up to our meeting place, sweaty and panting.
It's an entirely different situation with friends who are chronically late.
I have, on countless occasions, been that person who's desperately trying to look busy until my friend arrives. That same scenario has happened over 10x with one friend in particular. At first, I used a more passive means of getting past her lateness. Whenever we'd plan a day out together, I would plan to arrive about 15 minutes past our agreed-upon meeting time to minimize the time I'd waste waiting for her. When I still ended up waiting for her, I took some advice I'd found online and told her to meet me 30 minutes before I actually wanted to hang out. Sometimes, we'd arrive at the same time, but usually, I still spent a couple of minutes waiting for her. It got so bad on one occasion — she kept me waiting for an hour and a half in the sweltering heat — that I snapped upon her arrival.
"Do you not realize that you're wasting my time every time you're late?" I demanded. "I could've left an hour later and still shown up before you!"
I distinctly remember the look of shock and shame on her face because it immediately made me feel guilty for releasing all of my pent-up rage in that one moment. She mumbled an apology, but we were both too embarrassed to say much else after that. Our hangout that day was awkward, to say the least, and I sulked the whole way home, feeling equal parts justified and ashamed.
That night, we had an enlightening conversation in which I explained to her (and finally figured out) why I'd been so angry at her chronic lateness. It wasn't just that I'd felt awkward and tired of standing around. It was that her lateness suggested to me that she blatantly disregarded the value of my time and our friendship. She could say she respected me as a friend, but her actions showed that she didn't have the foresight or willingness to stick to our plans. She'd never risk being late every day to school or to work, so why was it okay to show up late to a meeting with a friend?
I won't say that her chronic lateness magically disappeared after that one conversation, but she made more of an effort to show up on time now that she saw where I was coming from. It was also a learning experience for me in that I realized the validity of my feelings. Getting annoyed at a friend for being chronically late isn't just a me problem or a small issue that I'm taking too personally. Just because you don't get pay deducted or points off for attendance when you're late to a hangout doesn't mean it's any less disrespectful to the friend you've kept waiting. And while there are exceptions to every rule, avoiding chronic lateness is definitely something to consider if you say you value your friendships.