Inside the heads of people who are always late, as explained by stick figures.

This post was originally published on Wait But Why.

I woke up this morning to a text. It was a link:

optimistic-people-have-one-thing-common-always-late.”

Intriguing. Nothings better than the headline: “The reason people are [bad quality that describes you] is actually because theyre [good quality].”

I got to reading. And as it turns out, according to the article, late people are actually the best people ever. Theyre optimistic and hopeful:

“People who are continuously late are actually just more optimistic. They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people and thrive when theyre multitasking. Simply put, theyre fundamentally hopeful.”

Theyre big-thinking:

“People who are habitually late dont sweat over the small stuff, they concentrate on the big picture and see the future as full of infinite possibilities.”

Late people just get it:

“People with a tendency for tardiness like to stop and smell the roseslife was never meant to be planned down to the last detail. Remaining excessively attached to timetables signifies an inability to enjoy the moment.”

By the end of the article, I had never felt prouder to be a chronically late person.

But also, what the hell is going on? Late people are the worst. Its the quality I like least in myself. And Im not late because I like to smell the roses or because I can see the big picture or because the future is full of infinite possibilities. Im late because Im insane.

So I thought about this for a minute, and I think I figured out whats going on. The issue is that there are two kinds of lateness:

1. OK lateness. This is when the late person being late does not negatively impact anyone else like being late to a group hangout or a party. Things can start on time and proceed as normal with or without the late person being there yet.

2. Not-OK lateness. This is when the late person being late does negatively impact others like being late to a two-person dinner or meeting or anything else that simply cant start until the late party arrives.

John Haltiwangers Elite Daily article is (I hope) talking mostly about OK lateness. In which case, sure, maybe those people are the best, who knows.

But if you read the comment section under Haltiwangers article, people are furious with him for portraying lateness in a positive light. And thats because theyre thinking about the far less excusable not-OK lateness.

All of this has kind of left me with no choice but to take a quick nine-hour break from working on a gargantuan SpaceX post to discuss not-OK late people.

When it comes to people who are chronically not-OK late, I think there are two subgroups:

Group 1: Those who dont feel bad or wrong about it. These people are assholes.

Group 2: Those who feel terrible and self-loathing about it. These people have problems.

Group 1 is simple. They think theyre a little more special than everyone else, like the zero-remorse narcissist at the top of Haltiwanger’s article. Theyre unappealing. Not much else to discuss here.

Punctual people think all not-OK late people are in Group 1 (as the comments on this post will show) because theyre assuming all late people are sane people.

When a sane person thinks a certain kind of behavior is fine, they do it. When they think its wrong, they dont do it. So to a punctual person one who shows up on time because they believe showing up late is the wrong thing to do someone whos chronically late must be an asshole who thinks being late is OK.

But thats misunderstanding the entire second group, who, despite being consistently late, usually detest the concept of making other people wait. Let call them CLIPs (Chronically Late Insane Persons).

While both groups of not-OK late people end up regularly frustrating others, a reliable way to identify a Group 2 CLIP is a bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves some deep inner drive to inexplicably miss the beginning of movies, endure psychotic stress running to catch the train, crush their own reputation at work, etc., etc. As much as they may hurt others, they usually hurt themselves even more.

I come from a long line of CLIPs.

I spent around 15% of my youth standing on some sidewalk alone, angrily kicking rocks, because yet again, all the other kids had gotten picked up and I was still waiting for my mom. When she finally arrived, instead of being able to have a pleasant conversation with her, Id get into the car seething. She always felt terrible. She has problems.

My sister once missed an early morning flight, so they rescheduled her for the following morning. She managed to miss that one too, so they put her on a flight five hours later. Killing time during the long layover, she got distracted on a long phone call and missed that flight too. She has problems.

Ive been a CLIP my whole life. Ive made a bunch of friends mad at me, Ive embarrassed myself again and again in professional situations, and Ive run a cumulative marathon through airport terminals.

When I’m late, its often the same story, something like this:

Ill be meeting someone, maybe a professional contact, at, say, a coffee place at 3:00. When I lay out my schedule for the day, Ill have the perfect plan. Ill leave early, arrive early, and get there around 2:45. That takes all the stress out of the situation, and thats ideal because non-stressful commutes are one of my favorite things. Itll be great Ill stroll out, put on a podcast, and head to the subway. Once Im off the subway, with time to spare, Ill take a few minutes to peruse storefronts, grab a lemonade from a street vendor, and enjoy New York. Itll be such a joy to look up at the architecture, listen to the sounds, and feel the swell of people rushing by oh magnificent city!

All I have to do is be off the subway by 2:45. To do that, I need to be on the subway by 2:25, so I decide to be safe and get to the subway by 2:15. So I have to leave my apartment by 2:07 or earlier, and Im set. What a plan.

Heres how itll play out (if youre new to WBW, youre advised to check this out before proceeding):


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