Punctuality and the Tyranny of the Clock

punctuality and clocks

I have a love-hate relationship with clocks.

When I was a child, my parents always set our clocks five minutes fast, supposedly to help prevent us from being late to appointments.

It never worked. We were always late…to everything.

Despite the ineffectiveness of the practice, I carried it over into my marriage. For forty years, all our clocks were five minutes faster than the actual time.

It didn’t work for us, either. We were usually late to most appointments, much to my husband’s chagrin…which should tell you whose fault it was. Punctuality was my nemesis.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended this past Sunday. A day on which we were all required to turn our clocks back one hour.

punctuality and clockSince I’ve begun a new season of life and I was changing all my clocks anyway, I decided it was time for a fresh start. So I set all my timepieces to the accurate time…and in the process, broke a sixty-year-old habit.

Then I posted about it on social media.

The response floored me. It seems I’m not the only one to set clocks faster to help me be on time.

And I’m not the only one for whom the practice has failed.

So what’s causing all these punctuality failures?

Is it because we’ve been conditioned to fill—or overfill—every minute with activity? For many of us, down time is a rare and foreign experience. We feel guilty if we’re not constantly on the go. If I have an open hour, my first question is, “What am I forgetting to do?”

Or perhaps we’ve become so self-centered that we think the world revolves around us and our convenience? One friend commented on my social media post, recalling a poem that changed her perspective…and her habits:

To be early is to be on time,
To be on time is to be late,
To be late is to be selfish.

Her little poem is not only painfully convicting, it’s also biblical. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV). When I’m late, I’m guilty of putting my own interests above others.

Maybe our tardiness is because, as another friend noted, “Optimists are usually the late ones. We anticipate everything going perfectly door to door.” Guilty as charged. Of course, we all know it’s a rare day when everything goes perfectly!

One cousin noted being tardy is in our family’s genes. While history supports her conclusion, I’m determined to change our family’s reputation.

It’s only been five days, but so far, so good!

What tips do you have for being punctual?


8 responses to “Punctuality and the Tyranny of the Clock”

  1. Lesley says:

    Wow Ava this hit home!! I am historically late for most everything but Doctor’s appts and then we sit and wait for them!!!

    Lesley

  2. Ava Pennington says:

    I know, Lesley – right? Hurry up and wait! 😉

  3. Michelle Tierney says:

    Our family is obsessed with time, not so much as it relates to being early or late – just we need to know what time it is – at all times. Clocks in every room of the house. The clock in our bedroom is on my husbands side of the bed. Frequently, I wake up in the middle of the night – and ask him – what time is it? LOL
    When my kids were little, they would ask every single day – what time are you picking me up. Even now – it’s a common question – what time is dinner, what time are you getting home. When I ask why they nee to know (ie- do you have plans I need to be aware of?) No – just curious – need to know the time.
    Didn’t realize this was seriously a family trait until a recent visit with my uncle and grandmother – it appears several family members on this side of the family – are also obsessed with know what time it is.

    Not sure what this says about our psyche????

  4. Ava Pennington says:

    LOL, Michelle! Guess we’ve all inherited our own family quirks!

  5. Michelle Duerksen says:

    Ava, I have the opposite problem. I am always early by minimum of 10 minutes and up to 1 hour a few times. When i am extreemly early somewhere it irritates me as i think about the other things i need to do during that time. The extreemly early parts are for when traveling a distance and giving myself room for traffic and then not hitting any.

    I have now learned to ensure I have books I’ve been wanting to read on my kindle and never seem to have time to do. Those spare minutes allow me to head about a chapter in a book and I still walk away feeling like I accomplished something.

    Today I still run early and I do that by not overpacking my schedule. If I know something will take me 30 minutes to get there I give myself 45 just in case Kanner Hwy is backed up again. If I know an appointment is going to take 1 hour then I block out 1.5 hours again in case the person I am meeting with will be late. For Dr. Appts I block out 2 hours as they are natoriusly late. If an appointment goes much faster then expected I will run an errand so I usually have returns to be done or other stores to stop at in my when you can get to it. All else fails and I have nothing that needs to be done between appointments it’s always a great time to go and grab a cup of coffee and spend the extra time with God.

  6. Ava Pennington says:

    Great suggestions, Michelle!

  7. Betty Ann Pascarella says:

    I am usually early or on time. I have friends that are never on time. It is very stressful if arrangements have been made to meet up. If I show up at their home to pick them up I wait and wait and wait. I have tried showing up 15 minutes later and still wait. If they pick me up I know I have at least 30 minutes more time to ready myself. They travel at their own time. It does not matter if the situation requires punctuality. I have learned to deal with it and accept it. I love them both dearly. I do know however they will both be late for their own funeral.

  8. Ava Pennington says:

    Wow, Betty Ann – 30 minutes late makes me look good!

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