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I was attending a meeting recently and the leader of the group had not arrived by the time the meeting was supposed to begin. A couple of minutes later one in the group suggested we get started. We did.

At eight minutes after the appointed time, the leader arrived and genially asked why the meeting had already started. The one who had suggested we begin without him told him he was late. His response, “But I’m only five minutes late.” She corrected him that it was eight minutes, and added, “whatever the amount of time, late is late.”

She was right.

At another meeting a few days later the start time arrived and I said we should begin. The group leader said that two people were “running late” and suggested we wait five minutes. I countered that we should respect the time of those already in attendance and begin on time.

Who was right in this instance?

While we can agree on a definition of “late,” we vary on our acceptance of “late.” If “running five minutes late” is considered by some to be on time, what about those of us who believe that on time is on time? Are we rigid or respectful? Do they really think a buffer of five minutes is OK or do they not care?

Societal behavior is governed by norms. And as members of society we as individuals influence these norms.

So, it’s up to us to decide.

I’ve decided. I’m going to be on time.



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