Today, I read a New York Times article on John Edwards’ tendency to be late to his presidential campaign functions. I don’t feel particularly supportive of or against any particular candidate as of yet, but the subject of the article struck me as something curious -Â that constant tardiness is an issue large enough to warrant an article in the New York Times. Not that the NYT is the king of all publications, mind you, but I think we could agree it is held to a higher journalistic standard than most. Of course, coupled with the fact that the guy is vying for the very people waiting on him to vote for him in the polls on a fated day brings to it an inconsiderate, paradoxical quality, but it’s an issue nonetheless.
By extension, this makes me think of those in my life (and past life) who have developed such a reputation. You can make a reputation for yourself – deservedly or not – by occurance of one notorious event or you can develop one through display of habit.
So first let me clarify here that I myself am not the most punctual of appointment-keepers. Even worse, I used to be pretty late all the time – particularly in college. I think back then, I’d rationalize it in my head with the fact that the others are definitely going to be late, so why would I want to wait on them?
Which was true. If you got a group of people together – say, at least five or more – chances were there would be at least one guy who was late. Everyone would be stuck waiting for that last guy and if you had somewhere else to go thereafter, you’d all be late. As long as you weren’t the last one to arrive, everyone could still blame the last guy, so to speak. It’s consistent with the “laid-back” attitude Angelenos have. You know,
c’est la vie no problem, mon surf’s up, bro.
And therein lay the problematic logic in my thinking. If others arrived in time, it would be alright for them to wait for me – but heck if I was going to wait on them.
That was in college. On a predominantly 1) pedestrian trafficked, and 2) Asian populated* campus like UCLA, you couldn’t even use traffic as an excuse. Now that’s the trump card: L.A. traffic.
After college, that was typically the card pulled. I can recall so clearly. For instance:
Sorry, I ran into traffic on the:
- 405 fwy
- 10 fwy
- 101 fwy
- 110 fwy
- 60 fwy
- 605 fwy
- 710 fwy
- 210 fwy
Clearly, there are at least as many choices as there are freeways in the city. That’s not even accounting for individual stretches of freeways. Heaven forbid someone leave extra early to account for the uncalculated delays, much less the calculated ones. The mentality is exemplified in the movie, Clueless, in which Cher’s Dad says, “Everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes.” Riiight. Not that it’s true, but it’s what every local in L.A. thinks.
And that’s what lack of efficient, underground public transportation has afforded the late-comers of the region: no lack for excuses.
This would be consistent with the psychology of a typical Angeleno. That is, the sense of entitlement. Because if it even came into question that one held total lack of consideration for others(‘ time), it would be the air of entitlement that would be not only accepted but heralded. If you can’t walk the walk, the talk of it would at least get you by. It’s not what you do but who you know, like you know, how you saw [C-list actress] at The Ivy and [B-list director because you're so "in it" you know what even directors look like] at The Beverly Center.
Because the brink between two (or three) isolated incidents of tardiness and the habit of such is never clearly defined.
Anyway. Who are we kidding? This is almost 2008, the age of cell phones. For quite awhile now, you could “call ahead” and show that you do, in fact, truly care about time and anxiety spent wondering where you are.
Let’s revisit it, though. We Angelenos do have it harder than most to be punctual. So despite the diatribe that is this entire post, some Angelenos continue to remain completely unbothered by the lateness phenomenon. Okay, myself excepted. I outright admit here my complete annoyance at this such habit. You have to live with windchill factor? We have to live with traffic and everything that extends from that. Then again, complaining about traffic in L.A. is like complaining about the humidity in Miami, or something. Sorry, you signed up for this.
* Asian American population makes for “Asian American time” or “Asian time” for short. “Asian time,” as is commonly practiced, is to be late without need for explanation. However, I have brought up this phenomenon to my East Coast and Midwest originating Asian counterparts and more often than not they have heard of no such thing. So my conclusion is that, generally speaking, it is really just a West Coast Asian American thing to be late all the time. To be completely truthful, I was only introduced to Asian time when I moved to California and couldn’t understand the common practice that is adding 01:00 to the official ETA. Corrections and refutations to this theory are not only welcomed but requested. I mean, far be it for me to be The Speaker of my entire race-nationality.