Readers respond with suggestions on how to handle the problem.
I recently ran a question from "Prompt In-Law," who reported that her beloved daughter-in-law was chronically late. In my answer, I reflected on this common annoyance. I suggested that the mother-in-law should speak with her frankly about it, continue with their on-time plans and take separate transportation to avoid frustration.
I've received hundreds of responses to this letter. With the holiday season approaching, I thought I would share readers' experiences. Here is a sampling:
Teach your children
I have struggled with time optimism (OK, chronic lateness) my entire life. I know it is disrespectful of others and I feel terrible when I am late. I try to get seven things done when another person would recognize there is only time for five. I underestimate the traffic. I run back into the house for an item I forgot every time I leave the house (and sometimes several times).
I have two points to share for parents of disorganized children.
1. Try not to yell when you are already late. I'm already anxious, and the yelling means every thought falls right out of my head. Wait for a quieter moment to correct the late child.
2. Try to teach your child to break down the process of leaving the house into steps. This will be obvious to you but less obvious to those of us who are easily distracted: "We're leaving in 15 minutes. Did you pack your bag? Do you know where your coat is? Where are your keys? Do you have a water bottle?"
As she gets older, try, "We're leaving in 15 minutes. Tell me what you need to do before we get out the door."
— The Time Optimist
I used to run 20 to 30 minutes late for everything. I rationalized that I was just busy. One day, a close and brave friend confronted me when I was late for lunch.
"I cherish our time together, but your chronic tardiness is rude and beneath you," he said. "And the unavoidable conclusion is that you think your time is more valuable than mine. Please think about it."
I did, and although it took some time to break habits, I changed ... to my great benefit.
— Tom in Winter Park
My ex-husband was always late to social functions, and he'd make a scene by loudly blaming me to the other guests.
Since we had two vehicles, I started departing on time in the car, and he got to drive up late in the ratty old pick-up truck. It soon broke him of his chronic lateness.
I also have a chronically late relative: my sister. In 60-plus years, good old, "Slow-Stop-and-Reverse" hasn't changed.
But I have learned never to ask her to bring the appetizers.
I think your answer to "Prompt In-Law" was inappropriate.
My brother was also late for everything and my parents and my siblings did as you suggested: We went on with life knowing that eventually "Tom" would arrive.
Fast-forward a few years. He had graduated from college and started his business career. He was directed by his supervisor to attend a very important meeting, and as per usual he was late.
When he entered the meeting room, his supervisor's boss said, "Don't worry, Tom, we waited for you. Everyone in this room realizes that your time is much more valuable than theirs. Now that you're here, however, we can begin today's agenda."
At his next annual salary review, this incident was noted. Tom was rarely late thereafter.
The letter writer can spare her daughter-in-law a load of grief and embarrassment by repeatedly reminding her of other people's time.
— Always Be Aware
Turkey waits for no one
Here's how we solved the problem with my brother-in-law's family one Thanksgiving. We had invited them for a certain time. Both families had small children. They were supposed to join us at least 15 minutes before we sat down.
When they hadn't arrived, my husband said they were rude and we would go ahead and start the special dinner I had prepared.
When his brother's family strolled in 45 minutes later, we had started our desserts. They were shocked. They were never late again!
We were friends with a couple who was always late, so when I invited them to dinner, I told them to come an hour before I planned to start serving.
For once in their lives, they were on time — and I was in the shower!
— Tolerating Lateness Now
— Write to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068, or email email@example.com.