Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to teach my kids the importance of promptness. I’d like them to learn to be on time and not be perpetually late.
Far too often, when they have to be at an event or appointment at a particular time, they get ready at the last minute or spend too much time sprucing up. As a result, we leave home just a few minutes before the event is set to begin and the pressure is transferred to me with these three words: “Drive fast, Daddy!”
Just once, I want to hear the words, “Drive slow, Daddy!” I want to relax and take my time, allow cyclists and stroller-pushing moms to pass me.
When it’s a large event with many guests, being a few minutes late may not really affect anyone. But when my kids have a piano lesson and are five minutes late, it bothers me. I hate to keep the piano teacher waiting. Her time is valuable.
“If you had an appointment to meet the president, would you be late?” I ask my 16-year-old son, Rahul. He shakes his head. Of course, he wouldn’t.
The more important the person, the earlier he would arrive. For his school principal, he’d arrive five minutes early. For the mayor, he’d arrive 10 minutes early. For the president, he’d arrive one day early.
Most of us do the same thing. If we have an appointment with a government official, we try our best to be on time. If we think that the traffic will delay us, we adjust for it. We make sure that the official does not have a chance to deny us whatever we are requesting, whether it’s a new passport or visa or green card.
Of course, once we arrive 30 minutes early, the official will see us 30 minutes late. That’s one of the unwritten rules of life: the more important the person, the earlier you’re expected to arrive and the later they’re allowed to show up. And if you happen to get an apology, you’d better run to the store and buy a ticket for the Powerball jackpot. It’s your lucky day.
My son wouldn’t be late for important people, so I ask him another question: “Would you be late for your own wedding?”
“Of course not,” he replies.
“That’s good, because if you’re late, you might get replaced.”
Then I tell him the story of a recent wedding in Malkapur Pangra, a village in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra, India. The muhurat or auspicious time of the wedding ceremony was 4 p.m., but the groom did not show up until 8 p.m. He and his friends had reportedly been dancing to the tunes of a DJ and drinking. Perhaps they drank so much, that they forgot what they were celebrating.
Groom: “I can’t believe I’m finally getting hooked up. Here in the village, I’m going to have a lifetime connection!”
Friend: “I still can’t believe your parents arranged good WiFi for you. You will never be alone again!”
When the groom’s party finally arrived at the mandap, an argument ensued and the bride’s father decided to marry his daughter to someone else, a relative who was a guest at the wedding, on the very same night. (Important tip for single people: attend lots of weddings and you might get lucky.)
But don’t feel sorry for the groom. After demanding that his former bride return gold and sarees they had given her, his family quickly found another bride for him in a nearby village and got him married the next day.
“See what happens when you’re late?” I tell my son.
“Yes,” he says. “You will bring more joy to the world.”
“What do you mean?”
“Instead of two people getting married, four people got married. And four families were filled with joy!”
I shake my head. Getting my son to be on time is going to be a lot harder than I thought.