The concept of showing up on time seems to be very hard to get for more people than I had originally thought. I’m generally a punctual person. I’m rarely late for an appointment no matter what the nature of meeting is. At work I was always on time, in fact most of my stress came from trying to get to work on time on a snowy day, or when the highway is jammed, rather than from getting it from the actual work. When going out with friends, picking someone up, or just meeting a few classmates for a lab, I’m on time more often than not. Naturally, a punctual person would expect others to be just as punctual, and naturally the punctual person is disappointed. This is especially true if the punctual person is an Arab. Now before you start blaming me for generalizing, I want to clarify that my views here came from personal experience, so Arabs here translates to people that I know, or have met.
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard "I will be there in half an hour", only for the person to show up more than an hour later. I have often canceled going on errands to be home on time, only to be disappointed. Other times we meet up at a friend’s place to go out at a specified time, only to find out the person still needs to shower and get dressed. Is it so hard to plan ahead of time?
Take the other day for example. A bunch of us decide to meet up a coffee shop to talk over an important proposition. The meeting involves 4 people including me. Person A calls me to set up the time, and he tells me he’s going to call person B and C to communicate to them all the details. To cover my tracks, I call person C to make sure he knows the plan, but he doesn’t pick up. I call person B half an hour before meeting asking him if he needs a ride, and he tells me that person C is picking him up. I make sure B knows what time the meeting is taking place. At 2 minutes past the specified time I pull into the parking lot finding it empty. I wait in the parking lot for person A, B and C to show up, for about 10 minutes before trying to call person A. Person A doesn’t pick up, so I try person C (person B doesn’t have a cell). C doesn’t answer. Twenty minutes past the meeting time I get a call from C, telling me he just got out of the shower and two of his friends just came in to play video games. He casually invites me over to play with them. Long story short, I went home half an hour later, and the meeting didn’t happen. It turns out there was a miscommunication between B and C about the meeting time and location, and A almost got into a car accident on the way to coffee shop. Dramatic, but I chose to believe the story.
This also happens on a family level. I especially hate it when a family promises to come over at a certain time, only to show up hours later. Food gets cold, normal movement in the house stalls, and quite frankly I want to get back into my comfortable sweat pants. Of course when the family shows up, there are no apologies for being late, since it’s expected. After all it’s a maw3id 3arabi (Arabic meeting).
This sort of thing happens all the time, sometimes I tolerate it, at other time I give everyone a piece of my mind. But one thing that will always tick me off is when people pronounce ahead of time “I’ll come over at 9… maw3id 3arabi.”
Perhaps I should relax a little, sometimes I think instead of expecting everyone to be on time, I should just change my expectations and become like them. I have tried being late with people who are late with me, and although it definitely removes the stress of making it somewhere on time, it still feels wrong. Ghandi said “be the change you want to see in the world” but I’m afraid the world is beginning to change me.