Lon looked at his watch once again. “They said it would start at 1:00 PM.” He looked at the crowded, jammed freeway with frustration. “We’ll never make it.”
I shook my head in amazement. Lon has lived a good part of his life in Peru. He is an American and that is the problem. I told him that he ought to know by now it is rare that anything starts even close to the designated time in Peru.
That is true. He ought to know it, but the American value of punctuality has been so deeply ingrained that he feels stressed whenever he has to be somewhere on time.
Well we did arrive a few minutes after the designated starting time. The only other people to arrive before us were another American couple. We sat and chatted for another forty minutes until the Peruvians arrived.
We Americans are not the only ones who put a premium on punctuality. Germans do it and the Swiss are famous for it.
Personally, when I moved to Peru, I decided to let go of my American obsession with being on time. Not that I don’t value punctuality. I just tried to let go of the stress associated with it. Of course, I still find a twinge of frustration when a client is late.
I finally decided to set a 30 minute maximum waiting period. That goes for anybody. The senior government official was astonished to learn that I had left when he was excessively late. I also charged him. I felt good and his behavior changed.
The stress, or even anger, we feel when someone violates our notion of punctuality is wasted energy. I recommend a more detached view. No one is going to ruin my day because of this.
What I wonder about is the durability of the teachings we receive as children regarding punctuality. Lon who is over seventy still retains the old value even though he has lived in Peru for so many years. I try to remember how it was done. I’m sure it came from my mother , but what she said and did to stamp this permanently in me, I do not know.
Sure, being on time is important, but it needn’t be an obsession. We have more important concerns to expend our emotional energy on. I think that we can quietly communicate the need to be on time without a raise in stress level. For one thing, we generally do not have control of another person’s behavior. Even if we make known our desire for timeliness, other people can do what they want.
It may please them to have a lifestyle which does not include rushing about to meet someone else’s deadline. In short,they are going to do what they want. Not what you want. And you can’t control them.
Yes, you can get mad. Throw a tantrum. It won’t do any good. While waiting for that tardy person, I recommend you breathe in some fresh air, look for beauty, smile at someone and enjoy your life.