Confessions of the Chronically Early

I hate being late for anything. I’m one of those obnoxious people who shows up at least 15 minutes early for every appointment, social obligation, or event. I’ve learned over the years that this is something that makes other people, “normal” people, look at me with suspicion and annoyance. It makes me “uptight,” “rigid,” and “boring,” among other things. Well, late arrivals, it goes both ways.

As a perpetually punctual person, I have a tough time understanding the consistently tardy:

  • I know it’s not usually by choice. I know that you can make every best effort and still end up late. That said, I don’t really understand it. I mean, if I’m consistently 20 minutes late for work every morning, I find somewhere that I can cut those 20 minutes out of my morning routine, and, failing that, I leave 20 minutes earlier. I have a hard time understanding why this works for me but not for other people.
  • It’s inconsiderate. I’ll reiterate: I know it’s not always by choice. That said, when I’m the person in the group who always has to get the table at the bar and then sit there by myself for a half hour while everyone else trickles in to take their seat at the table they know will have already been secured for them, I get a little resentful. When I miss the previews at the movies for the fifth time because I’m the only one who doesn’t think a 7:15 movie means you’re pulling into the parking spot at the theater at 7:18, it makes me a little cranky. I realize I’ve created my own problem by being the one who’s always there to get the seats or buy the tickets, but I’m tired of missing out because everyone else is late.
  • It gives the impression that you think your time is more important than everyone else’s. Lest anyone misunderstand, I’m not always early because I have nothing else to do. So I juggle my obligations, run my errands, do my daily tasks, and then go to my appointments, whether serious or social. Where I then sit and wait to be greeted much later by someone who tells me, “Oh, you wouldn’t believe how much I had to do today.” Yes, I would.
  • The absolute worst, for me, is when people don’t even acknowledge that they’re late. You know we said 6 p.m., and you know I was there at or by 6 p.m. So when you stroll in at 6:38 p.m. and make no mention of the fact that you’re late, let alone an apology, it stings a little.
  • I don’t think I should have to come up with elaborate schemes to accomodate someone else’s lateness. Yes, I could tell you that we’re meeting at 6 p.m. when I really mean 6:30 p.m., but that seems way more involved and complicated than actually just showing up on time. And no, I’m not going to call and remind you, because I know that annoys you as much as it annoys me.

I know this is one of those things where both sides are sort of fundamentally unable to understand the other. So latecomers, tell me what I’m missing. Let me know how I can help my tardy friends stop being late, or how I can let go of my resentment at being the one who’s always on time. Or even just let me know if this is one of those things I have to get used to, because no one cares if they’re on time anymore, and jeez, PoM, you’re such a boring Old, let it go!

25 replies on “Confessions of the Chronically Early”

Hah, I gave up on being on time for social gatherings because none of my friends ever were and it makes me really anxious to wait for people somewhere all by myself, especially now I’ve quit smoking.

I’m always on time, or a little early, for things like class and appointments and such.

I used to be chronically late. Now I am always exactly on time, because it’s good for my anxiety. Being early freaks me out, because I don’t want to deal with being the first and only person in a place, and if it’s a new place? Holy shit, fuck no, not going in there alone. And if I’m late, I feel like everyone is judging me and I feel like a total asshole. When I am late, I apologize profusely. It makes me feel like a total douche to be late. So I guess I’m different from these chronic laters in that regard.

But I now time everything down to the minute of how long it’s going to take me. I mean, it’s a little neurotic and probably borderline obsessive that I know how long it takes for me to put on makeup or eat a bowl of cereal or brush my teeth right to the minute, but goddamnit it saves me a lot of fucking anxiety.

You are  so not a boring old! This drives me nuts too, and I don’t understand why people at my work find it weird that I’m always 15 minutes early for my shifts. I don’t understand why this is a big thing- it’s not like I’m claiming the time to be paid. I thought being early for work was a good thing?

I’m usually early or right on time to things (although occasionally the fact that I live my life by public transit does throw a wrench into this, since it’s a little unpredictable.)  And when I am late – even just a minute or two – I ALWAYS call or text to let people know.  And people being late is one of my pet peeves, especially especially especially when they don’t contact me to let me know they’re late.  I have had numerous fights with one of my best friends about this, because he is chronically late and will often be completely incommunicado during said lateness, and it drives me up a WALL.

So I have nothing to add from the other side of the equation.  I’m pretty much with you.

I used to be pretty punctual, I felt. And I am increasingly becoming the person texting you letting you know I’m running 10 minutes late.  It’s not a quality I like in myself.  At first I blamed it on living in NYC.  When I first moved here I had a long commute that took 3 trains.  There were so many variables for things that could go wrong to make me late, that I decided I needed to stop stressing about being a little late sometimes.  I think that made me a little complacent about being late for work.  And then it kind of snowballed so now I do a really shitty job of getting out the door on time. I’ll say I need to be out the door at X time.  And at X time, I think I’m leaving “on time” but I’m actually putting on my shoes and gathering up items that ends up taking an extra 10 minutes and I’m late.  I am the worst.

The same thing happened to me, but on the upside, I find that I like my friends a lot more now that I’m late sometimes too.  The subtext of this discussion is the frustration that late people (the majority in cases like this) won’t change for US.  Which is sort of a horrible expectation to have.

I’m kind of an inbetween person. I’m (generally) a little bit early for meeting someone out, and, anymore, early for work – panicky if I’m ONLY two or three minutes early. (When I was a recent college grad, I wasn’t very good at getting to work on time – but then, nobody at my office did, and no one seemed to notice, so it was hard to make myself get up earlier.) I tend to run behind for events where I’m more comfortable, as an HSP, blending in in the back – church, for example.

I’m glad to read the conversation below about those with depression or other mental illness. I’ve never had a major depressive episode, but I do work through depression off and on. And I can sleep through the alarm. I’ve often wished to be one of those people who can’t go back to sleep after the alarm rings. Instead the alarm ringing becomes part of my dreams, etc., so I have to come up with elaborate ways to get myself out of bed in the morning – probably losing some quality sleep in the process.

Definitely could be an anxiety trigger – is for me. “Somebody will yell at me!” I think it’s social anxiety that causes anxiety about being early rather than late – if I’m early, I have to figure out what to do with myself until event X begins. Who do I talk to? How do I place myself in the room? What if my friends don’t show up? For the same reasons I tend to leave events as soon as they’re over, unless I really know everyone in the room.

Oof, that was kind of unclear. I have anxiety about lateness when lateness is displeasing to an authority figure. And I have anxiety about earlyness when it’s a social event at which my friends may arrive later or may have other people to talk to until the event starts.

Oh, god, I could write a million words on all the ways my social anxiety effs with my life on a regular basis. Not least of which is that I often find myself sitting in my car before a social thing because I’m SO early, and I don’t want to be that person who’s there before everyone else.Which I alway am. Add to that the fact that I hate being the first person to walk in the door, or that going somewhere I’ve never been before can send me into a panic spiral, and, yeah, anxiety and punctuality are all wrapped up in each other.

Sitting in the car because I’m early: YES. I hear you. Sometimes I pick my friends’ kids up from school, and I’m most likely to sit in my car then. It’s not my community, even though I know a couple of people. Standing around awkwardly, waiting for kids who are ten minutes late getting out of class while moms (I’m not one) talk only to each other? Bless ’em, they’re tired, and waiting for school to get out is social time – but I’ll sit in my car at least till the kids start filing out.

I used to be chronically early (and resentful of others) until I realized that a lot of people just don’t take shit all that seriously – and not in a bad way.  Bar or dinner nights happen at least once a week.  For a lot of people, it’s a fun thing to do, but it’s not a super special occasion.  I also noticed that single gals (like myself at the time) end up being earlier because they’re not waiting on other people.  I had to learn that when someone says, “I’ll be there in a half hour,” she really means, “I’m leaving my house in a half hour.”

It’s interesting, because I have become one of those chronically early people…… BUT for a large large chunk of my life I was a chronically late one. I think for me, my lateness was directly tied to my depression/general inability to drag myself out of bed/the house/whatever… now that the depression is in remission I guess I am making up for lost time by being early for absolutely everything ever. :-P


No idea. My fiance insists that he can’t help it, but, I help it. I make it happen. Late people just seem to be missing the thing that registers being considerate of others’ time as important. And they refuse to hear us when we say, “Actually, whether you intend it that way or not, being late IS inconsiderate.” They want us to agree with them that, because they don’t MEAN it that way, it isn’t.



As someone with raging ADD I cannot successfully manage time no matter how hard I try.  I speak for the 10% of the population who also suffer from this condition.  We don’t feel time, don’t sense it and are either ahead of behind, usually behind the world.  I do use tricks such as setting alarms, setting my watch ahead, etc., but often there are tasks that distract me and I end up running behind schedule. Mostly I just can’t accurately judge how long it takes to finish a task before moving to another, soI don’t allot the proper amount for travel.  Medication does help, but that only covers a few hours of my waking hours.

I will forever be one of those people that annoy you, POM, and other early birds.

I hate being tardy, and sometimes hate having ADD.

Oh, and I hope that didn’t come off too abrupt. I didn’t mean it that way – I just dashed off a comment, reread it, and though, ah, that could use some clarification. I do really – and sincerely – appreciate your reminder that some late people have excellent reasons for not being able to help being late.

I dunno, I’m totally on your side. (But I’m a chronically early too–thanks rowing! “If you’re on time, you’re late.”)

I self-adjust so I’m 5 minutes early instead of my usual inclination, which is 20 minutes early. You can self-adjust so you’re on time if your inclination is to always be late. I totally understand that stuff happens sometimes, but yeah, chronic lateness is inconsiderate.

For me, I’ve learned there’s a window of opportunity, especially when I have to be somewhere with my kids. I work really hard to get them to be ready to walk out the door-sometimes they move quickly and we’re out the door 10 minutes early. If I waited at home that extra ten minutes, they’d get involved in something else or take off their shoes or whatever, and then we’d be 10 minutes late.

I really don’t like being late, so I build in plenty of time for me and my charges to get where we need to be!

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