Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Importance of Being On Time

Punctuality is seen differently in different cultures. On the Long Beach Peninsula you are lucky if a tradesperson shows up on the appointed day and flabbergasted if they are early. We call that “Beach Time.” Last Friday I called the electrician there who had rewired our house to complain that our living room fixture was dangling by the wires instead of firmly fixed to the ceiling. We were told that everyone was out repairing lines from the storm the previous Saturday. I asked if they could put me on the list just in case someone had time on the way home and imagine my surprise when two guys showed up just as we were sitting down to dinner!

On Whidbey Island they call the lateness phenomenon “Island Time.” On reservations it is called “Indian Time.” In Argentina it is an affront to the host and hostess to show up to a party on time as they likely will still be dressing. But for the vast majority of working Americans showing up on time is expected. In Western society being late tells people who don’t value their time.

Most employers want you to appear at the appointed hour and to get their full measure of work from you. I used to show up early for work, as much as 45 minutes. I liked having time to settle in and get my bearings before the students arrived, but the district does not pay me until the stroke of 7:30 AM when school starts and as my aversion for the job has grown so have I come later and later, but still am there on time.

Which brings me to students and their parents. Out of the approximately 1,600 students at Gig Harbor High School something in the neighborhood of 130 are tardy for the beginning of the day. This does not take into consideration those who are tardy to class the rest of the day, just the ones that come anywhere from a few minutes to an hour late. Maybe it is only because Gig Harbor is an upper middle class community, but the majority of parents excuse their child’s tardiness, even when it is habitual. What are we teaching our children about a work ethic?

When I complained about a student’s habitual tardiness to the school’s “Behavior Interventionist,” he informed me that an employer will be more flexible than I am. I don’t know what alternate universe this guy is operating under (he has been counseled himself for his own tardiness), but in the real world we do students, even Special Education Student—perhaps particularly them, a no favor by not teaching them to be on time or that there are consequences to tardiness. Maybe my student should consider moving to Argentina.

Okay, that’s my rant for the day and the view from my broom.


Grandma L said...

I'm with you. Being late is just plain rude. I was nearly always the first one to arrive on my job.

Jo said...

And then, there's me. I often arrive early; I have even been known to drive around the block a few times so as not to embarass my host/hostess. What can I say? Being on time was considered a virtue in my youth, even mandatory!
We could use more such rantings.

Stephanie Frieze said...

And I find myself getting later and later to work...a sign of job dissatisfaction, I'm sure.

Kim Thompson said...

Of course there's the infamous "Hawaiian time." Hawaiian time is instantly contagious on the Big Island. Well, maybe not instant. I am wound up for a day or two (bristle at lateness), then it melts away.