Thoughts On Timeliness

In this article I want to highlight two very intriguing works of literature. The first is a practical discussion about cultural tardiness, the other a fantastic, whimsical work of fiction about Albert Einstein. The theme of both is the elusive Time, something to enjoy this post- Christmas period now that the frenzy is over.

To introduce these two works, first humor me a personal confession. My boyfriend is always on time. Had I known this on our first date when he said, “Get there between 11 and 12,” I would definitely have called before strolling in at 11:48. Technically I was in the clear,  but since then I have come to adopt a more structured approach to time.

This kind of mentality shift is what author Greg Savage attempts to highlight in his article, “How Did it Get to Be ‘OK’ for People to be Late for Everything?” 

Greg says that though timeliness may sound old fashioned, it’s actually a show of respect and basic good manners. If people are late they rarely call to inform the waiting party, and arrive without sincere apology. Another problem is the exaggerated ETA. If your GPS’s estimated time of arrival is 15 minutes, do NOT say you’ll be there in 5. That is a lie!

Greg also addresses the excuse of the busy life. “It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late. Rubbish. You are rude. And inconsiderate.”

Hold yourself accountable, and set the standard for change. Or…if you’d rather keep your “fashionably late” reputation, pine after these alternate worlds of Time from the short novel, Einstein’s Dreams written by Alan Lightman. In each of Einstein’s 30 dreams a conception of time is explored and while some theories are exaggerations of true time, others are completely fantastical.

Lightman writes about worlds in which people keep their own biographies and when their allotted books are full, they have to decide to live with what they have and remember who they once were, or decide who to be without pages. He writes of worlds without memories as worlds of the perpetual present. He writes of worlds with two times, “mechanical time” and “body time” of which inhabitants of the former deny their bodies and rise at 7, each lunch at noon, and work until 5. Those obeying “body” time make love whenever they feel like it, even if the daylight is shining boldly. Lightman explores worlds in which the end of time is known, and how people spend their final days and cease to exist in a state of peace. He also examines a world in which time does not exist.

The next time you’re thinking about being late…don’t. And soon you might even arrive early, giving you a chance to sneak in a read of these delightful vignettes!