Waiting and keeping others waiting

Monday 10th October 

People can be categorised in many ways; by gender, by wealth or by intelligence but the world can also be divided into those who keep people waiting and those who are constantly kept waiting.

And I seem to have fallen reluctantly into the being kept waiting pile.  I pride myself on a degree of punctuality which appears to be rapidly falling out of fashion.  Is it me, or has the rest of the world adopted a new definition of the English Language; when I am asked to meet someone at twelve I assume that they mean twelve o’clock, not half past or far nearer to one?  But it appears that people are not only surprised but can be become quite annoyed if you actually turn up at the specified time, as if you have done it deliberately to annoy them, or by inference as some sort of criticism of their own tardiness, which inadvertently it may well be, though this is entirely of their own making.  You can hardly be criticised for being on time,though this is no longer seen as a virtue, but almost as a vice, as if it is really was stupid of you to actually interpret a generalised time frame of say eight, as being in any way specific.

So, I am constantly kept waiting, I who am invariably on time am often left kicking my heels in some financial consultant’s office, or at the dentists’, or at my publishers’, who seem to work in a constant muddle, and cannot even find letters I have sent, or corrected proofs when I have deliberately gone to the trouble of sending them by recorded delivery.  And while we are on the subject, why is it that nobody ever phones you back; they promise that they will and meticulously take down your number, and your mobile in case you are out, though as I point out I have an answering machine so they can always leave a message, and they so rarely do.  And then when you ring back they are so surprised that no-one has called you back, as if such a thing were unthinkable.  So again I am kept waiting; and the person you first spoke to is never available so you have to repeat the whole rigmarole again to a new person who promises to call you back and your heart sinks as you know that as sure as eggs are oeufs they never will.

I have learnt at dinner parties to arrive ten or fifteen fashionable minutes late, or again you are met at the door with amazement, as your half-dressed hosts stare at their watches, as though they had no idea that you were expected at all.

But worst of all are those who have absolutely no shame.  Barbara and Bill, old friends of ours have a grown-up daughter Charlotte – we stayed a few days with them up in Edinburgh a few years back.  We were all leaving the house to visit some other friends and we had to wait over thirty minutes while she put her make up on, (though she knew exactly what time we were leaving).  There we all were with our overcoats on, waiting at first by the front door and then in the sitting room, and she so nonchalantly kept us waiting without a care in the world.  Bill kept looking at his watch and was sighing in exasperation, in the end Barbara made us a cup of tea while we waited, but from Charlotte not a word of apology, as she merrily kept us all dangling.  Talk about her Royal Highness, and she just behaved as if this was the norm, that everyone should sacrifice their own good time waiting for her.  Maybe she was right, and the rest of us wrong, who knows.