Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pathological tardiness

(Note: I'm using "pathological" in the colloquial sense, not in the medical sense.)

Being in time somewhere is a relatively simple task for most people. Most of people, me included, find it easy to plan ahead in cases where they need to be at a certain place at a certain time, even if this requires some simple logistics.

For example, if I need to be at a certain place at 10 o'clock, I can plan my timing ahead of time, by working backwards: Since I need to get there on a bus, I can estimate how long it will take me to walk from the final bus stop to that place. I can also estimate (or check if I don't know it) how long the bus takes from the bus stop near my home to that destination. From this information I know how much earlier than 10 o'clock I need to depart. Of course since buses don't travel whenever I need them, I have to check their itinerary and select one that arrives at my bus stop earlier than that time.

Long story short, if I estimate it takes 5 minutes to walk that final distance, and 25 minutes for the bus to get there, I need to leave at 9:30 the latest. I check the bus itinerary and see that a bus arrives at my stop at 9:20 and the next one at 9:40, therefore I choose the 9:20 one. That even leaves me a 10-minute safe zone, which is nice. (And of course I need to make sure I'm not late for the bus, so I need to leave home accordingly.)

Anyway, this all seems trivial to most people, and most people do this kind of thing all the time. It's something rather self-evident.

Yet seemingly not for all people. There are people who are constantly late from everywhere. Some of them are typically horribly late.

I'm not talking about the occasional case of being late. That happens to anybody because of unforeseen circumstances or the occasional mental lapsus. No, I'm talking about people who are consistently late, and are notorious among friends and acquaintances for it. I think most people know someone like that. In some cases it's not even a question of the person being consistently like 15 minutes or half an hour late. No, if the person is only one hour late, he's being unusually early.

I don't even understand how this kind of people operate. What goes through their heads? Are they somehow completely unable to plan ahead, understand timings, or do they simply not care? The curious thing is that these are usually otherwise completely normal, intelligent people, with no problems in performing other types of tasks.

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