Monday, February 8, 2010

On Jewish Standard Time

Okay, G6 is right--somewhere in my background and that of my hubby there has to be a whole passel of Yekis. When it comes to time we are punctlich to the nth degree. Unfortunately, this is an area where we are tested and tortured on a constant basis.

Many of you have been hosts or hostesses with invited guests. The first thing a guest asks is what time they are expected to be there. Why do some of them bother?! It does not matter what number you give them, they are going to be late. They are constantly and continuously late, and offer that as an excuse, always with a smile. The rest of us, or at least those who seem to be able to tell time, are expected to understand that some people are just time challenged, yet another disability we pay tribute to.

A vort a few weeks ago, not a come whenever you want to affair but a sit down, catered dinner with a definite starting time. It was held locally, a maximum of a five-minute drive from anywhere in the neighborhood. So hubby and I arrive as requested and who do we find at our table for 10? One other couple. When did the others finally arrive? Between 7:20 and 8:00. None of these people have little children in the house. None of these people work on Sunday. No one had another simcha that they had to attend first. No one was off the Island and fighting traffic to get back. By 7:30 the caterer began serving the meal. And these latecomers were surprised at that. "Everyone" knows that hours on an invitation are only a suggestion of a general time range. Who comes precisely at the hour requested?!

It really isn't any better when it happens privately at gatherings in a home. How many times have I planned out just precisely how long a turkey needs to roast and then been torpedoed by guests who may first be leaving their home at the time that they are already supposed to be in my home.

I can still remember back to my carpooling days for school for my kids. Inevitably there was always one parent in the carpool who couldn't manage to be ready on time or couldn't pick up on time, and our whole group got the lecture from the principal about getting to school on time when it was really only one person's fault. I remember quitting a carpool when I was in college because two of the other drivers could not, even with a gun to their heads, get us to college on time for classes.

I know it may not be PC, and so be it, but perhaps it's time to get rid of the myth that there is such a thing as "time challenged," and that this is a "condition" that those afflicted with it cannot help. Perhaps if those so "challenged" were actually penalized in some way they would suddenly discover that with some effort on their part, they can make it places when they are supposed to be there. We once attended a performance the tickets to which clearly read "no patrons will be seated after the start of the performance." And the theatre kept to its word. Anyone arriving late had the choice of waiting until the intermission to be seated or they could go home--and no, the tickets were not refunded. The instructions had been clearly stated, and if you were late YOU took the consequences, not the rest of us. Of late I have begun my own personal rebellion against the procrastinators. If I call a meal for 12:00, by 12:30 the latest I begin serving to those who have made it on time. The rest, when they arrive, play catch up as best they can.

Getting places on time is not just the fetish of a few hosts and hostesses. Our world is organized along time principles. Bosses are notoriously finicky about employees showing up when they are supposed to. Schools have begun cracking down on the continuously late. Planes, trains and buses don't sit and wait for those who have purchased tickets but are nowhere to be seen. Overdue library books come with monetary fines, as do late bill payments. If you really do like the late-comers among you, you are doing them no favor by excusing their tardiness as "they can't help it." Instead, make it clear that this is the year of the clock. Nudge, prod and pester until they manage to get the idea that "late" may be a word in the dictionary but it's not an acceptable method of operating in the real world. Sigh, and good luck to you. Probably easier to design a new rocket ship than to get these people where they need to be when they need to be there.


Sima said...

I could have written this post all by myself. After years of being ridiculed for being "such a yekke!" I'm sick and tired of all the wasted time I've spent waiting for people who are "always late -- I'm just never on time -- it's terrible, chuckle chuckle." It's almost like they think it's an amusing idiosyncrasy.
To me, chronic lateness equals lack of consideration for others, no more and no less than extreme selfishness. When you are late to a meeting with someone, or a carpool, or a party, you are saying that your time is much more important than mine and that you don't care enough for the next person to bother making an effort. I now give my "latecomer" friends a time adjusted for their lateness. They're on time, (ten to fifteen minutes late) b/c I don't bother showing up until ten to fifteen minutes after the adjusted time, which is the time convenient for me.

A Clock Watcher said...

This drives me crazy! My business life works according to a strict timetable and then my personal life gets torpedoed by friends and family. There are people I no longer give a lift to because they can never be ready on time and make me late too. Sometimes the traffic and traveling situation in NY can cause a snarl and you might be late getting somewhere. Usually I try to figure in that traffic will be bad and add in some extra travel time. Why can't others do this also?!!

Anonymous said...

At least you and your husband view time the same way. You should try being married to someone that can never be ready on time or get anywhere on time. Luckily everything else is fine but this one thing kills me. I've tried setting all the clocks in the house ahead half hour, I've tried begging, I've tried yelling. Someone please, any suggestions?

Long-time-suffering ADD-er said...

While I share in your frustration, I think there needs to be a distinction made between the overall social disregard for time in certain segments of klal and time-challenged individuals. The former is something that should be counteracted (despite my rebbe's joke, bidiyuk does not stand for "biz de yidden villen kumin" ["when the Jews show up"]), the latter, however, can be a very real and painful condition that people struggle with. This doesn't mean that there shouldn't be penalties as you note, nor should it be excused, but for at least some, it's not simply a matter of a "personal idiosyncrasy."

Anonymous: the internet is no place for psychological evaluations, but you may want to have your spouse look into professional help. Chronic lateness may be a manifestation of adult Attention Deficit Disorder or other executive function defict (both horrible names, but that's a subject for another time). These conditions are very real, very painful, and are not going to be solved by simply setting an alarm 30 minutes early or yelling. They are treatable, however, but require patience and a good practitioner who can provide a comprehensive individual program that includes therapy, time-management tools, and/or medication.

Mystery Woman said...

Being late for carpool and coming late to a vort are very different. The first says, my time is more important than yours. The second is often done intentionally. Where I live, when a vort is called for 7, people know that really means 8 or 8:30, and if you come at 7, you will be the only one there.

Moshe said...

I've heard this one too Myustery Woman. But I still don't get it. If you know that no one will come until 8:00 then why not just call it for eight if everyone is going to come then? But why do these people come at eight? Who decided that a time on an invite means one hour later?

Strangely enough I've found one place that almost everyone manages to get to on time is to a funeral. If they can do it then why not for happy occasions or just plain living occasions?

Anonymous said...

Add-er--I am sensitive to the fact that some people do suffer from ADD and their lateness isn't a matter of intent or disregarding others and putting themselves first. But there are two things here.

First, what incentive do ADD people have to get the help they need if they don't see that there are consequences to being late? If people cvonstantly excuse other people for being late then why would those with ADD seek that help?

Two, and I DON'T say you are one of them, there are lots of people who excuse their lateness by throwing out words like ADD when they haven't been diagnosed but know that others respond to the term with a sorry I didn't know, I won't bother you about the lateness anymore. There are also lots of people who should be getting time management help who aren't ADD.

And then there are some people who are just plain self centered and don't care who gets inconvenienced when they are late.

People don't carry signs identifying which type of person they are so those who get screwed up by late people can't tell and react badly (or deservedly).

Mystery Woman said...

Moshe...You can't just call it for 8, because people will come at 9. I don't know who decided it, but that's just the way it is, and you learn to work with it.
They do it for a funeral because the same rules don't apply. 7 is 7 for a funeral. It's not that they can't do it for a vort - it's that they won't, because it's just not done.
If I want people to come at 7, I'll call it for 6.

Ruth said...

Yeah, well sometimes time is money, and when it ends up costing out of pocket then I don't care what the excuse was. We made a family wedding and the mesader kedushin was an hour late. We were getting ready to ask just any rabbi in the hall when he finally showed up. His excuse, if you call it that, was that his shiur ran overtime. His overtime resulted in the whole wedding being delayed over an hour. We tried to see where we could cut some time out during the wedding but it would have meant there wouldn't have been that last rikud where some people were invited to just the simchas choson v'kallah. So we ended up paying overtime to the hall. Never did get a real apology from this man. I guess he's another one who doesn't believe that your time just may be as important as his time.

Long-time-suffering ADD-er said...

Anonymous: I don't know if you're the same "Anonymous" that I responded to before (please pick an alias so we can tell commenters apart), but I fully agree that regular lateness should not be excused or consequence-free. Indeed, as you alluded, it is often only those consequences that gets people to seek out help.

My point simply was that if one has a spouse or loved one that has this problem, then it is extremely unlikely that any single simple act will change him or her. This kind of difficulty is deeply-ingrained, generally has multiple components (physical, emotional, and executive function skills), and is often difficult to understand by non-sufferers ("C'mon! Anyone can look at his watch!").

miriamp said...

I think it's often a combination of "oh, they won't start on time anyway" and a lack of understanding of how much time you really require to get yourself (and any kids or other family members) ready and out the door, plus how long is really required for transportation.

For example, the school says, "please arrive between 8:05 and 8:10 -- by 8:15 if you are not in the classroom, you are late." The students who live walking distance or less than 5 minutes by car have that 8:05 or even the 8:10 time stuck in their heads, and won't leave home until then. At which point someone will remember that they haven't brought (choose: lunch, boots, money for a trip, signed permission slip...) and run back for it, and suddenly you are late.

If you know it takes 5 minutes to get to school plus you allot 5-10 minutes for finding your coat and making sure you have everything you need, and plan to get there for 8:05, NOT 8:15, then you might have to wait outside school for 5 minutes, but you won't be late.

miriamp said...

So I think the difference is that actually allowing enough time for getting ready and getting there is intuitive to the "always on time" folk but not at all to the "always late" people. Not only does it need to be explained, it needs to be taught and practiced until it is ingrained.

G6 said...

Well said!

Lion of Zion said...

i shouldn't really comment here as i'm the one who on more than 1 occasion had to abandon the car and walk friday night because of poor planning (one time for a 5 hour hike).

but i would like to point out a small connection between "jewish time" and wedding expenses. i don't know how it is today, but when we got married the standard rental for hall, band, caterer, etc. was 5 hours (or somthing like that). but it seems like most weddings days go into overtime, which incurs heavy costs.
so when we got married i gave very specific instructions to the caterer/hall (the same in my case) that i will not pay for overtime and i charged him with the responsibility of making sure everything moved along schedule. he did a good job at it, even telling off the photographer at one point when he wanted to take more pictures.

Tuvi said...

This week the weather made everything run behind time. Okay, for this I can make allowances. But I also get frustrated when there is no real excuse and people come late. We invited a family for lunch on Shabbos. I walked home with this man from shul. He told me he was just going to stop in and pick up his wife. They live a block away from us. They first showed up more than an hour later. His kids were all with me so they could play with mine while they were waiting for their parents. No excuse, no I'm sorry.

A few minutes late when traffic suddenly gets bad is one thing but the type of lateness that seems almost planned is another.

SubWife said...

I thought this article was great. I am one of those who is time challenged. It's not terrible, if I am late, it is usually 5 min, sometimes 10. Most punctual people don't understand that it's a struggle, constant battle with oneself.