|Perhaps we ought to invest in one of these for those friends|
who can never keep up an appointment. ;)
At about 9.30PM, we got a call from the rather irate party organiser- demanding to know where we were. My mother said she thought the party was cancelled because we'd come at 7.15PM, waited and gone back. The woman apparently commented, "Ya but when I said 7, I meant 8.30PM.".
My dad rolled his eyes, and then turned to me and my brother and proceeded to tell us about "IST" or "Indian Stretchable Time" and the horrors of being late.
I think almost every Indian I know is familiar with the concept of "IST". Its a crime even I have been guilty of on a couple of occasions due to extenuating circumstances (it was in India, and I got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a stray cow that decided to take a one hour nap in the middle of the road). I love how our culture believes that time stretches on forever, and how we are tolerant and flexible enough to accept delays on the part of others.
But we Indians have elevated late coming to an art form, and make it a point to show up an hour to two hours late at every single event, taking advantage of our cultural tolerance towards late-coming. And the worst offenders do not even bother to apologise to those who were waiting for them.
Is it the Singaporean part of me that thinks that waiting for those who have been tardy with time is to insult others who have taken the trouble to be punctual?
I mean- even if I am 5 minutes beyond the expected arrival time, I will feel guilty, harassed and stressed, and will be making a flurry of calls on my mobile phone to to the people I'm meeting, going as far as insisting that they need not wait to start their meal or program.
I wonder if people were compelled to be more punctual during the pre-mobile days, but I confess-- the parties I have attended back in those days were as filled with chronic late-coming as the parties I attend now.
And then of course, there are those geniuses who refuse to pick up their telephones, respond to text messages or emails despite several entreaties, especially when they owe us things. I deal with this on a daily basis- since India is one of the regions in my remit. It makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration sometimes.
My favourite offender is that one friend we all have, who would have kept us waiting for for half an hour. We will all get a flurry of texts saying "I'll be there in 2 minutes". Eventually, we will see this person an hour after those messages were sent. I remember one memorable occasion where a tardy friend sent me an irate "Stop texting me, I told you 15 minutes ago that I'll be there in 2 minutes".
Maybe the problem is mine. I grew up with the view that Time is the most precious commodity, because I was always on a tight timetable in school juggling studies, tuition and extra curricular activities. Late coming was the worst crime you could commit in school- and it got you a day long detention standing outside the Principal's office with a sign around your neck calling you a "Late coming Moron" or something equally pithy. And it dosen't end there- once school is over, 'detention' was spending the afternoon scrubbing the boy's toilet with a worn out toothbrush and a cap full of JIF cleaner.
This detention/public shaming combo is an experience that has traumatized many of us Singaporeans which is why nobody really turns up late for an appointment or delays on deliverables. We consider time as sacred, because we've been conditioned to believe that. Maybe we need therapy.
But whatever the case is with us- the facts are as they are. Late coming is still a disease that needs to be eradicated, and I say its time we called for a social ban on Indian Stretchable Time. The worst offenders ought to be made to stand outside the party venue with the sign from my old school discipline master- "I'm a late-coming fool". And as part of the party entertainment, they should be asked to clean the men's bathroom with a toothbrush and a cap full of detergent, while we send the occasional drunk in there to take a leak- preferably all over them.
That would teach them, especially those over-dressed aunties who love to show up 2 hours late to make a 'grand' entry.