Categories: Opinion

Mehreen Farhan

I have always been bad at planning. Prior to going anywhere, I keep looking at the clock, mentally negotiating with myself about how five more minutes of chilling in my pajamas on the sofa won’t harm much. After all, I am someone who doesn’t indulge in detailed dressing-up-rituals.

The result is always the same. Me racing against time and my husband all dressed up and ready to go, sitting beside the coffee table in the lobby. The rate at which he taps his feet on the floor is directly proportional to the number of minutes I’m past our decided departure time.

It was our last month in Oman. All our Pakistani friends had decided to give us a combined farewell. The place was far off. I was frantically running around the house getting ready and Farhan was sitting beside the coffee table in the lobby, tapping his feet.

You see, with an army background, he is very, very organized. We are complete opposites but we have reached a state of marital harmony where both of us have met each other half way along. He knows I’m a bit unorganized, and I know his need to be proper and punctual. My reason of living the unorganized life doesn’t stem from being careless; it’s just that I personally think life should have a certain level of randomness to it. It keeps you human. But a that’s a debate for another day.

Coming back to the night of our farewell party in Muscat, I finally got dressed and was 10 minutes past our expected departure time. Add thirty more minutes plus-minus ten more minutes depending on the traffic enroute Ruwi, the place where the restaurant was. Farhan drove at full speed. You see, reaching late and making anyone or everyone wait for us is something very embarrassing for us.

So what did happen? Were we late? Did we reach on time? I shall disclose this in a while.

One problem we face in the Pakistani society is the culture of being late. I call it culture because looking at some people, it seems that being late is a sort of ritual that they try to accomplish. You may argue that why I have singled out the Pakistani society because this issue has more to do with how people function generally rather than a subset of people belonging to a certain place. So my answer is this: I want to target my community when it comes to giving out my weekly free gyaan. Charity begins at home, no?

So yes, back to the the main topic.

Everyone knows someone who will arrive at your place exactly one hour and seventeen minutes later than the time they said they will come. That someone happens to be a one too many. I’ve had many dinners spoiled this way from reheating the food a million times. I’ve had guests who were as late as three hours on an Eid day evening, bounding us from going out and meeting anyone else.

Let’s talk about our weddings. They are a classic example. Your Aunty Bubly will always make that last minute, bollywoodish entry just prior to the dinner being served. Why? Because there was so much traffic on the way, when in reality, she started getting dressed probably an hour late itself!

I think if I start counting instances here, I’m sure to miss out many. That’s because this problem of showing up (SO-MUCH!!!!) late is something we do all the time.

We happened to have really good neighbors at one time. The only issue with them were ill-planned/not-serious-about plans. Two, three weekends in a row they would engage us in a would-be coffee outing to the nearest Second Cup, till we realized they would plan and forget all about it; while we got dressed and waited five minutes before the set plan. I’ve eaten many delicious macaroons that way!

I sometimes wish my husband and I could master this skill of shamelessly being late but I think it requires growing a thick skin. An inside joke my husband and I often make with each other is “4pm means 3.55pm”, referring to the way we treat time anytime we need to leave for some place. We take it as a joke but live by it religiously. To deliberately reach late some place means we leave someone waiting for us. I mean, who knows they have more plans for later in the evening? They could be someone who have tight schedules and they set aside those one, two hours for us because they were really intent on meeting us. In that case, it would be nothing short of an insult to not respect their time.

Sometimes, getting late is inevitable. You owe your hosts instant update the minute you realize you will be late. This obviously does not include emergencies which leave us too consumed to communicate. But if we can, we must. I have often felt like a very picky guest and wrongly so, because in reality I am just very, very careful not to show up as promised.

Not respecting someone’s time is a grave etiquette mistake. It shows a deep rooted problem: your disrespect for the person. When you keep someone waiting, you tell them they are not important. When you arrive somewhere late, you give the impression that the event is not important either.

It also means that you don’t value your own time. Someone who wants to achieve good things in life will value every second they have. Their apparently free time will also be organized slot wise for tasks that will help them grow. There is no other way to success than getting responsible and organized time wise. Yes, your mom was absolutely right.

I personally feel very bad when I feel my time is going to waste, whatever the reason may be. This is because I know this is one thing I will never get back. For example, if I planned to complete a so and so certification in three weeks, and weekends are the only possibility of me studying for it, I know I need to be super organized. It may be available for a limited time or it might be the case that being able to complete something requires me to learn this skill first. Things are pushed forward and everything becomes a mess.

I know the suspense may be killing you lol, so back to my Muscat party. We reached ten minutes late. Believe me that is HUGE for us! Our hosts were forty minutes late and the rest of the guests came a full hour late. By the time the party started, we were exhausted because we were already going through a very intense phase of winding up our home; a physically and emotionally draining phase. Nonetheless, we had a good time. But that is a party story I always narrate when I need to give an example of us people, being fashionably late.

Let’s respect each other’s time as much as we can. Because when people give you their time, they have given you something that they will never get back.

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