My impatience is something I wish I could overcome. For years I have genuinely tried to control this irritating habit but, alas, to no avail. I admire those who seem immune to such debility and go along happily without the least concern for being made to wait when lateness drives some, like myself, mad to the point of insanity.
Now, one researcher has suggested that chronic tardiness could itself be a form of insanity. People who are consistently late for engagements are irrational in how they view time and may have a ‘bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves’ by making commitments they cannot possibly keep, according to Tim Urban, the author of the study.
He even has an acronym for them: CLIP, or Chronically Late Insane People. Mr Urban argues that CLIPs have, ‘a deep inner drive to inexplicably miss the beginning of movies, endure psychotic stress running to catch the train or trash their own reputation at work. As much as they may hurt others, they usually hurt themselves even more.’
There are three main reasons why CLIPs are always late, the science writer argues. Some are in denial about how time works, while others have an ‘aversion to changing circumstances.’ In some cases the individuals are simply ‘mad’ at themselves. Many psychologists and experts believe that while there is no cure for lateness, it is possible to change.
Ronald Bracey, a consultant clinical psychologist, says there are numerous factors that contribute to a person’s tendency to be consistently late. ‘Certain people have personality traits where they avoid things,’ Mr Bracy said. ‘They are always running around because they are putting things off. Then there are the obsessionals always picking things up and having to complete things – they can’t do something else until they have completed a ritual.
‘For some it is personality and psychiatric problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder and depression or procrastination or performance anxiety, but all these factors can contribute toward being late.’
Richard E. Nisbett, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan said: ‘If chronic lateness is an illness, then so is chronic tendency to interrupt, chronic tendency to run red lights and chronic failure to shine your shoes. As a recovering latecomer, I insist that for many if not most of my kind, being late is a manifestation of disorganisation or hostility that is fully within one’s ability to control.’
Other experts believe that part of the reason beating this behaviour is difficult is because, it is similar to other recurring habits such as overeating or overspending. Such negative behaviour has the potential to become part of a person’s routine and may even form mental path ways that become strengthened each time a person repeats this behaviour. As a result, punctuality cannot be achieved overnight but has to be worked at.
Linda Sapadin, a psychologist, frequently sees this in her patients: ‘Some people comply right away and most people don’t,’ she told The Atlantic. ‘Habits take time to break. It’s not only about breaking this pattern, it’s also about building another one.’
All the scientific mumbo jumbo might make sense but my own experience to combat the habitual late comers is simply not to see them. I have done that very often, especially with guests who come to lunch unreasonably late. I find latecomers are unlikely to repeat their tardiness on any future occasions if, on one occasion, they arrive late and miss the first few courses.
I have always maintained that deliberate tardiness is invariably associated with bad mannered people who often do it to manifest their own importance. A brutal lesson to them would perhaps make them nicer, and more compliant, human beings.