The Time Virus: Why is Tardiness Highly Contagious?


14-year-old me. I wore my green baseball shirt, black cargo shoes, and my favorite pair of Nikes. Best clothes for a special day. Our teacher had given us a group project to do over the weekend. As a high school student, nothing could beat the feeling of working another project with your classmates. The projects could be done quickly and easily. And because of the “materials” needed for the project, I had the perfect excuse to ask my parents for “extra” cash. In other words, I was looking forward to eating ice cream while walking around the mall with my classmates after this so-called project was done.

It was a typical Saturday in July that time, the end of storm season. My father had dropped me off at 8:10 am, 20 minutes before the agreed meeting time. My father loved telling me that punctuality is a sign of respect and professionalism.

If I remembered correctly, our teacher had assigned five members in my group. I sat on the stone benches parallel to the church’s windows as the cold wind brushed my skin. I might be wearing the wrong clothes for the weather.

I observed the church’s windows and attempted to count the spots with the chipped blue paint. This area was called the “side of the church,” and it had been the favorite meeting place. My watch told me that it was 8:35 am. My classmates were already late. But that could happen. The ground was wet, and due to the Philippines’ plumbing system, floods were everywhere, and heavy traffic had been a normal sight.

9:15am. No one arrived. I walked towards the school gate where a rusty payphone stood, jammed the coins into it, and punched our house phone number.

“Dad, we’re done with the project,” I said, holding back tears. “Please pick me up.”

“Already?” The surprise in his voice did not surprise me. These projects could last for about 2-3 hours. He generally picked me up after the sun went down.

I wasn’t labeled as the boy-who’s-always early because it was mandatory to arrive at least 5-10 minutes early from the agreed time. I guess respect was very common back in the 90’s. But how did late become normal?



Fashionably late. Better late than never. It’s Better to be late than to arrive ugly. Red carpet entrance. How many of these have we heard? The idea of being late seems to have evolved from being a sign of rudeness to being cool and trendy—a statement to make one’s self feel better about his or herself. Beck to 14-year-old me, our group leader (whom we will hide by the name Emit) called me upon arriving home. Emit was very apologetic, but I told her that I wouldn’t help on the project anymore unless I helped them over the phone. They weren’t late at the second meeting.

If you are reading this and you know me, before you scroll to the comment section and type “Kevin, you are a giant hypocrite,” let me explain. Yes, I used to be super late all the time too, but only because I was a victim of the Time Virus.



            Growing up as a teenager, I carried punctuality with me. I wasn’t one of the cool kids back then. And I still wasn’t one of the cool kids when I reached college. Huge breaks and free weekends were what I had in common with the cool kids and my friends. We were young, and time was all we had. One could say that the word hangout was the most popular word when I was in college. And I tried to be that 14-year-old boy waiting beside the church all the time:

  • Be at least 15 minutes early
  • Know that people could be sometimes 1-5 minutes late and that is forgivable
  • More than 6 minutes late is rude and unforgiveable

Unfortunately, that 14-year-old boy died. If you look at the death certificate of that punctual boy, you’ll see that the cause of death is has stopped tolerating late comers. If they can be late, he can also be late, right? It’s more convenient; you can leave anytime you want, the people you’re going to meet are for sure already there, and everyone will know that you have more important things to do other than being with them, right? You see, that kind of philosophy has had me fooled that I can be a better adult by being late all the time.



            Like what I’ve mentioned earlier, when I was in college, our idea of hanging out was the entire day. Our national anthem was It’s Okay to be Late Because We Have All Day. TGIF, right? No problem, because tomorrow is Saturday, and there’s plenty of time to do homework. Little did I know, that kind of thinking will not help me as an adult.

Meeting up with friends has become challenging and impossible. Friend A can’t have lunch with us because he should study for finals. Friend B must take her dog to the vet. Friend C wants to oversleep. And I can’t go because I have work. Little did we know; our national anthem has been keeping us apart. And it shouldn’t be like this. Friend A gets out of school at 1:45 pm while Friend B’s vet appointment is at 4:00 pm. Friend C can oversleep until 2:00 pm, and my shift starts at 4:30 pm. In other words, we can grab lunch or coffee near Friend A’s school from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. An hour and a half. This is where punctuality becomes crucial. If all can just be punctual, we can bond for about an hour and a half. In other words, meeting up with friends can be difficult but not impossible, and there are ways to do that.



            Being on time is not as hard as it sounds, especially if everyone is doing it. This 2017, my friends and I have come up with a New Year’s resolution to be punctual, especially now that we are all busy adults now. Here are some tips that 14-year-old me and 2017 me can give you to be on time.

  1. Don’t Trick Yourself to be On Time: Remember that you set the clock in the bathroom to be 15 minutes advance? This never works, for you know that the clock is not right. The back of your mind still reads the original time. To fix this, make your meeting time at least 15 minutes early. If you are going to meet your friends at 2:00 pm, tell yourself that you are going to meet them at 1:45 pm. Aim to be there at 1:45 pm. If you’re 5-10 minutes late (you arrive around 1:50pm-1:55 pm), hey the meeting time is at 2:00 pm, right?
  2. Thank Your Friends For Waiting: Never apologize that you are only 10 minutes early. But always thank your friends for waiting for you just in case they arrive before you. Thanking them is saying that you respect their time, and this will make them think that they also need to respect your time. Say, “thank you for waiting for me. How long have you been here?” It is also a good ice-breaker.
  3. Call Out Your Friends For Being Late: I do this, but I avoid being rude. Knowing the line is mandatory. If your friends are late, say, “I’ve been waiting here for 20 minutes. What happened?” By saying this, you are giving them a chance to explain. You can also give them the opportunity to apologize for being late. Tell them, “I’m glad that you’re finally here. I heard there’s heavy traffic on the 110.” Calling them out means you don’t enjoy waiting past the agreed time.
  4. Manage Your Time: Cliché? Yes, but it works. I ask one of my friends to scale their punctuality from 1-10 (10 being very punctual). One of them said that he was only a 6 because of bad time management. Traffic is the most common excuse for being tardy, but with the technology today (Google Maps, Waze, etc.), there is no excuse not to compute your ETA with or without traffic.
  5. Let Them Know You Are Going to be Late: You can be late too as long as your excuse is valid. Accident, family emergencies, illness. But that does not give you an excuse not to let them know. Give your friends an hour or more before the meeting time a heads-up that you are going to be late.
  6. Punish Late Comers: This is entirely optional, but it works wonders. For this to work, make sure that everyone knows and agrees to all the conditions. For my group of friends, we’ve all decided that every time we have lunch or dinner plans, all the late comers are the only ones who are going to pay the tip on our bill.

Punctuality is one of the most forgotten signs of respect. They say that you must learn respect first before others can give it to you. By learning to be on time, I’m pretty sure that everyone around you will start doing the same.