A Greatness for Lateness

When you type ‘why are some people always…’ into Google, it finishes your question by supplying the top ranked query which is ‘why are some people always late’? Rightly a lot of people want to know this.


In 1818, in his seminal work “The World as Will and Representation”, Schopenhauer says:

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

Find out what it means to me

Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me

We are all inconsiderate in small ways. Somehow even when you would not be doing anything else, the ten minute wait for a friend outside the cinema seems incredibly irritating. When someone is actively rude to you at least you feel they have put the effort in. If someone always leaves you standing like a numpty it seems to imply that they do not think you are particularly important.

Basically we don’t like to feel we are being treated disrespectfully even if that was never the intention in the first place.

Ok, but you still haven’t answered ‘what are some people always late?’

Looking online there are various answers to why some people are always late. The American website Psychology Today suggests that there might be deep-rooted and unconscious reasons for this behaviour:

Maybe tardy arrivers enjoy the attention they get from making an entrance and breathlessly describing to the assembled group whatever detained them on this occasion (which elicits sympathetic smiles and nods …)  Or maybe they feel guilty for other reasons so that lateness gives them a chance to apologize and seek forgiveness.

Meanwhile The Mail Online offers us this balanced pearl of wisdom that is not remotely tongue-in-cheek: “Do your late friends drive you mad? They could be insane!”

I have a friend who is never on time when we meet. She does not enjoy making an entrance, she does not want sympathy from strangers, she does not suffer guilt and she is definitely not insane. What she does have is a baby – let’s call him Abe … or Abe-y.

My guy

In his magnum opus “Ethics” Spinoza posits:

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy (My guy)

Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy (My guy)

Abe-y the Baby understands that until he is old enough to arrange for his mother to be electronically tagged, his best chance of not sharing her is to cause an incident at the front door. Abe the Babe generally relies on a good old vomit just as his mother opens the front door.

The upshot (sorry) of this is that by the time my friend has cleaned him up and arrived, she is late and flustered and I am grumpy and possibly cold and rained on. At this point we have forgotten that we are supposed to be enjoying each other’s company and the whole thing is just a chore to be got through.

Breaking point

In what is believed to be his most important work, “The Critique of Pure Reason” Immanuel Kant postulates:

One of these mornings, the chain is gonna break

But up until the day, I’m gonna take all I can take

Chain, chain, chain. Chain of fools

And really, Kant was right.

Once my friend and I realised what a strain her greatness for lateness was putting on our friendship we had a chat and came up with a plan. We don’t meet outside the museum or cinema like we did in the pre-Abe days. We meet in a café first – then I can bring a book and have a coffee. This adds up to two relaxed friends and one stymied baby.


The cornerstone of “Principles of Philosophy” by René Descartes is that mankind should:

Think (think), think about what you’re trying to do to me

Just think (think, think), let your mind go, let yourself be free

We all do things that are annoying to our friends. Some people are always late. Some people throw up on us as we are trying to leave the house. And some people pointlessly mis-attribute the lyrics of Aretha Franklin songs to post-medieval European philosophers.

We need respect in our friendships as much as in our family or romantic relationships. It is good to stop and think sometimes – ask ourselves if we are the ones doing all the running or making all the compromises. If the friendship is worth keeping you can talk about it and work something out – if you can’t, it might be time to ‘walk on by’.

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