Sunday, January 15, 2012

Being on time

On Saturday I went to visit some friends to play games.  The email invitation listed the start time as 1:00 so I dutifully planned my trip to get me there right on time and ended up being about 2 minutes late.  When I arrived the hosts were quite shocked to see me there and remarked on how strange it was that I was on time.

Thing is, they weren't surprised to see *me* arrive on time.  They were surprised to see *anybody* arrive on time because everybody else they know arrives late to things and calls from their cell phone to explain their late arrival and describe the time at which the actual arrival will take place.  Neither Wendy nor I own a cell phone so we have never gotten into that habit; when we make plans to be somewhere at a particular time we damn well follow through because there is no way to coordinate otherwise!  Without cell phones on each end it is quite a mess to miss an appointment because nobody knows if the other person will arrive soon, has already left, or perhaps is just asleep.  Once you have a cell phone though things change drastically.  You can be late because you can always find your date, you can figure out when they are coming and you never have to wonder if they are going to show at all.

Other people have remarked on this too.  They find it strange to meet with us because they are obligated to actually show up.  If we had cell phones they could just call us and tell us that they will be late or that they will miss the event entirely but since we do not they know that we will be waiting at the designated point at the proper time for a great while if they fail to make the date.  Strangely some of them seem to think this is a wonderful thing because it forces them to meet their commitments and stick to the schedule instead of being endlessly available for late minute changes and delays.  If you have to be there and excuses will not suffice you generally find a way to make it work.

This all makes me wonder if the improved communication offered by cell phones has this effect in a widespread fashion.  Is this a global phenomenon or am I just particularly particular when it comes to showing up at the appointed time and I coincidentally don't have a cell?  Wendy is much more willing to change plans at the last minute than I am; often she takes a preternatural delight in doing something crazy at the last minute while I scratch my head and ask "What was wrong with the plan again?"  Even given this people talk about how doing things with her is strange because the plan must be adhered to so I suspect this is more global than local to just me.

What do you think?  Has owning a cell phone (since you mostly all do!) made it such that you don't make appointments and do you see other cell phone users doing the same thing?


  1. I find that it varies from person to person, in ways that don't always correlate with things like how busy they are normally. (So for instance I can think of one friend who never seems to get pinned down to a specific plan, preferring the call-when-you're-around, and another -- also very busy -- who because of that pretty much requires plans to be made days plural in advance.)

    For me it tends to be a practicality issue: I prefer to make plans in advance, but given how often I'm coming in from far away to execute my plans things like the butterfly effect often mean I have to rework things as I go.

  2. I bet is has more to do with a person's personality than access to cell phones. In the olden days (aka the days when I was your age), some people were always late for events and had to be given a start time an hour ahead of others (Bert & Toot!). Others will always be on time or 5 minutes in advance (Bev & you & me). Maybe it's a A or B personality thing.