Punctuality isn’t Going, it’s Gone

Bruce Sallan’s latest commentary in THE FATHER LIFE:

With all the wonderful technology at our fingertips, one would think that keeping track of appointments and being on time would be easier than ever. I suspect that punctuality is largely going the way of shame and honesty, and becoming less ubiquitous, less obligatory.

He asks “does being on time mean anything anymore?”

In turn, I have to ask “what do you mean by ‘anymore?'” Apparently, you’ve never lived in Eugene, Oregon, where I’ve spent the last fifteen years arriving earlier than almost everyone else simply by being on time.

We had an expression at the U.O. Music School: “Eugene Standard Time,” that is, if a concert was scheduled at 8 PM, the hall would start filling up between 7:55 and 8:05, after which the doors would shut and the concert would begin at 8:10.

Don’t even get me started on RSVPs, but again this is nothing new. Far too many people take “si’l vous plaît” to literally mean “if you please” as in “if you feel like it” as opposed to “would you PLEASE not be a jerk and respond so I know who’s coming?”

In my experience, the only thing that starts on time in this town is church, and that’s only so people can get it over with as soon as possible. Mass at my parish starts on time every Sunday, and if it isn’t over in an hour, people start leaving. Most feel obligated to stay as long as priest does, but once the recessional reaches the back pew, it’s a stampede.

So what do my wife and I do? We show up on time, especially when we’re with our daughter, and in the case of church we stay put and sing until the closing hymn ends, even if half the church has emptied out by then.

We can’t control what other people do or how they raise their kids, but we can control our own behavior and teach our children by example. And if enough of us do it, maybe punctuality—and politeness—will come back.

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