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Monday November 26, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday June 2, 2013 MYT 8:40:08 PM
by but then again
If you haven’t a decent excuse for being late, watch out for the enraged lady with the fork.
SOME people can be relied on to be at least 30 minutes late for everything. When they finally show up for appointments or meetings, they either say nothing or announce that something important came up. More important, obviously, than the time of the people they have just kept waiting.
In the good old days it was a woman’s prerogative to be late, but nowadays men are equally as guilty of this misdemeanour.
I can still remember the humiliation of having to sit in a restaurant, waiting for a date to show up. This was many years ago, way before the advent of mobile phones, and I had no way of contacting the offender.
After 15 minutes, I began to feel uncomfortable and tried to ignore the pitying eyes of the waiters, who, I’m sure, whispered something like, “Oh, poor thing, she’s been stood up.”
After 20 minutes I began to worry that some accident had befallen my date. And after 30 minutes, I was as mad as hell.
In the space of half an hour, I’d finished my bread rolls and drunk two glasses of red wine, and the winter of my discontent had begun to set in.
When the hapless guy finally showed up, he greeted me breezily, plonked himself down at the table and began hungrily scanning the menu. I sat there for a further 10 minutes trying to stop myself from stabbing him in the back of his hand with my fork.
Subsequent dates with this man indicated that he was perpetually late. I struggled to be patient, probably because he was hot, and I’m basically a shallow woman.
But everyone has their breaking point, and mine came on the day we’d planned a day-trip out of town. We had agreed to meet at a certain bus stop at a prearranged time. However, the bus was just pulling up at the stop when my date rounded the corner, waving frantically at me from afar and indicating that I should ask the bus to wait for him.
At that moment, something snapped. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I suffer his tardiness, he also wanted to subject the entire bus to his lack of discipline. So I quickly boarded the bus without saying anything to the driver.
As I sat down the bus took off, and I looked out the window to see the object of my discontent receding in the distance with a confused expression on his face.
One undesirable side effect of being late is that many normally honest people feel inclined to tell lies to cover up for their lack of punctuality. I myself have been guilty of this, forgetting that lies have a way of coming back to haunt us.
For example, take the first time I cooked spaghetti bolognese for a boyfriend – a significant milestone in any relationship. After three helpings of calorie-coated pasta and a bottle of Chianti, we were sprawled on the couch like two over-sized inflatable dolls.
As we were complaining about our lack of control, the telephone rang.
“What happened?” said a flustered-sounding friend. “You two were supposed to be here half an hour ago. You haven’t forgotten you’re having dinner at my place, have you?”
“No, I was just going to call you,” I lied, desperately searching for something to say. “We’ve got a flat tyre. As soon as we change it, we’ll be right over.”
It wasn’t until we reached the bus stop that I realised that we didn’t even own a car.
After picking at the starters, which our despondent hostess must have been slaving over for 90 days, something like stuffed elephant feet, she introduced the main course: good old spaghetti bolognese! Try getting out of that one! It’s enough to drive anyone to bulimia.
It took us a box of laxatives and four days to recover.
Despite a few lapses over the years, I’m still quite punctual and don’t like to keep anyone waiting.
Of course, I still struggle with the concept of “Malaysian time”.
As I work from home, I usually accommodate tradesmen who deign to show up late without even an excuse. However, it’s a little harder to work around the tardiness of others outside my home.
Some friends who arrive late for a lunch or dinner date often smile nonchalantly and blame it on the traffic – the same traffic that we experience every day. Like, how is that even an excuse?
And don’t get me started on those official functions that invariably start late because someone in authority decides he has been elected by the people to keep them waiting.
It’s a good thing that I never sit at the main table at these functions, otherwise my fork would forever be embedded in the back of a VIP hand.
Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer. Reader response can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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