Waiting on a Friend


My phone buzzes and I let out a little curse. The old woman on the tram across from me raises an eyebrow at my quiet “feck.” If I possessed the interest, I’d lean across the few feet of empty space between us and explain that I was 98.9% certain I’ve just received a gonna be late message.

My fears are realized when I check my phone. I get off the tram, walk the three minutes to the pub. By design, I arrive at 3:59, one minute before our arranged meeting time. I planned this earlier this afternoon, factoring in the three-minute walk so as to arrive on time. Others crochet, sew, or bird watch, I plot out time plans.

I sit at a table on the raised dais in the back of the smokiest pub in Prague and order a beer and a Becherovka. Nothing should be wrong. I am at a pub on a Saturday afternoon, I have a book, a notebook, two pens (primary and backup), two forms of alcohol. There are far worse places and circumstances in which to be forced to wait for five minutes. But still, as I jot notes and sip liquid Christmas, I grumble.

There is no greater crime against a male Galeone than to keep him waiting. Some related males share a receding hairline, a predisposition to diabetes, a frumpy set of man boobs. The men in my family share an aversion to waiting that borders on (read: fully resides in) irrational. Once, after a blind (Tinder) date left me waiting in Náměstí Míru for 20 minutes, I left. Her anger and amazement were palpable in her subsequent messages. I responded that it would never work between us if her time policy allowed a stranger to wait for 20 minutes. Then I shoved needles into a small voodoo doll of her likeness that I fashioned from the pictures I’d seen on her Tinder profile. OK, mentally, but the rage was there. While I strongly believe that thieves and murderers should be given a chance at reform, rehabilitation, and eventual redemption, I would gleefully kick one who has made me wait five minutes into a pot of boiling oil and drop the lit match in after. In front of their families.

The men in my family perhaps take being on time a bit too far, so that it is more a way of life than an action people do with relatively unconscious effort. If we have a meeting in the afternoon, we worry about the timing all day long. If we all have the same meeting (family dinner) we’ll have conferences about which route to take to the restaurant. This conference will not only involve serious discussion, but maps and the internet to figure out how to avoid traffic or a closed bridge.

The concept of waiting for latecomers has truly murdered my interest in visiting specific countries. I’m currently reading a travel narrative about Peru, who are evidently infamous for arriving often hours later than a scheduled event. The writer mentions that Peruvians go by “Peruvian Time” which means “the code by which Peruvians determine the latest possible moment that it is acceptable to arrive for an appointment.”

Monsters.

A colleague who lived in Nigeria told me that in some Sub-Saharan African nations it’s completely reasonable to arrive several hours late. The rudeness would be in leaving, even if you were forced to sit and wait for hours. This tardiness will be explained nonchalantly by the phrase: “time got away from me.”

Um. No. And so to avoid ending up in a Nigerian prison for assault, I have essentially stricken it from my list of travel locales.

The Czechs employ a charming device called Academic Time, which essentially allows students to arrive up to 15 minutes late and still be considered on time. This, of course, does not jive with my policy, and when students attempt to employ the defense of Academic Time, I fall upon them with the brute efficiency and humane leniency of Pol Pot. I then grumble for a while until I no longer feel like Googling where to get a pot of boiling oil.

My friend arrives (9 minutes late) and my irritation dissipates very quickly as we begin to chat and catch up. One thing about pet peeves, is that I always recover quickly. Maybe the Becherovka helps. Perhaps I’ll start bringing some to class.

What is the pet peeve that makes you act most irrationally?

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