Service of Running Late Before and After Mobile Phones

October 22nd, 2018

Categories: Apology, Interviews, Jobs, Kismet, Late, Mobile Phones

It seems increasingly hard to get to places on time.

A friend takes New Jersey Transit to work in Manhattan. Service has been atrocious and promises to get worse. One morning last week it took cars 90 minutes to cross the George Washington Bridge from N.J to Manhattan. Subway service can be iffy–trains zoom past stops unannounced or are delayed.

I got an email from another friend this week—I’ll call him Phil. He wrote: “We are interviewing computer color tech people to fill the job of someone who just left. So far, all candidates have been late, one by 45 minutes. Not one called to warn about their travel circumstances nor did they apologize.” Phil remembered that he’d previously fired someone when the man arrived late on his first day.

Long before mobile phones I was almost late my first day on a job at a startup because I’d been sent an address that didn’t exist. The street number would have landed a building in the middle of Madison Avenue. I can still feel that twinge of “Uh-Oh–something’s very wrong!” I found the right building by entering each one on either side of Madison. Lucky the employer got the street right. [The business lasted one year.]

Phil recalled the one time he was [very] late for an interview. He’d left earlier than usual for his commute to NYC and “wouldn’t you know Grand Central Terminal was closed because of a smoky fire. No cell phones. Trains backed up. The prospective employer understood of course.”

His story took a curious turn. He said: “I didn’t take the job. Something didn’t seem right. Two weeks later the entire group was fired. I would have been out of a job.” Kismet.

I hate being late and admit that having a phone takes the pressure off when transportation or other glitches happen so I can alert clients, colleagues and friends. Do most people use theirs for this purpose? Do you have memorable experiences of being late to an appointment before or after cell phones? Can you imagine sailing in late to an interview without a word about the time as the candidates for a job in Phil’s office did?

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6 Responses to “Service of Running Late Before and After Mobile Phones”

  1. Protius Said:

    I find myself put squarely and most properly on the defense by your latest post. Unfortunately, I am almost always late, cannot stand telephones, or talking on them, and do not own, or even know how to operate those tiny new portable things that women carry around with them in their pocketbooks. I also detest people who come on time because I am never ready for them when they arrive.

    The following is a fantasy based partly on the truth and could well have happened. My wife had an aunt and uncle who if you invited them for 8:00 PM, would show at 7:30PM. One year before our Christmas party when they did this, I greeted them at the door in shaving cream and an undershirt, asked them what they wanted, and told them to go away and come back in an hour, since that was about when I expected the party would be likely to be underway. My wife, a stickler about being on time, was furious, and we finally made peace but not until the 4th of July.

    All kidding aside, I know I am dead wrong on this one, and even though I have worked out why I feel the way I do, I am almost always late and still have terrible telephone manners. (If someone gets going on the phone, I will interrupt and ask for the caller’s permission to get a chair to sit upon to be comfortable while I listen, no doubt offending him or her.) These are, no doubt, literally and figuratively, costly failings to have. I am also sure that, as a consequence; I’ve paid a lot of doctors or lawyers far more than I really needed to, and have lost business by being late with my bid. On the other hand, being secretly sympathetic to the failings of others who are chronically late may have made me one or two useful friends. Furthermore, if you are speechless as a telephone conversationalist, obviously you are much less likely to make friends than someone who talks fluently.

    It may be redundant, but I do urge your readers not to do as I do, rather to do as you say and do. Show up on time and be friendly on the telephone.

  2. EAM Said:

    I remember driving to an interview long ago when both Kerry and Bush were in NYC. I had almost arrived at my destination when a policeman waved me by. I rolled down my window and shouted “I have an interview”! I took that opportunity to call the interviewer and tell them I was going to be late. Convinced that I had blown the interview, I did end up getting the job because I had called ahead.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am a stickler for being on time for several reasons: I don’t like wasting other people’s time; I don’t like waiting for people who are late because I imagine all sorts of terrible things that might have happened to them; I don’t like having my time wasted; I did anything I could not to provoke my dad who’d become furious if I was late so being on time is a habit I’ve had for a long time. In addition, I’ve always been in a service business where being late won’t get you far.

    I tend to write emails and texts to take the place of speaking on the phone though I do still speak with certain friends. As a kid I chatted for hours on the phone.

    The small size of most phones makes it impossible to tuck the apparatus into my shoulder so I can type or iron or water plants while speaking which is another reason I speak on the phone far less than before.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Ah ha! There you go. I just checked with my friend and his company hasn’t yet hired anyone for the job and since all the candidates last week were late without calling, it’s no surprise they didn’t select anyone in the first crop.

    I rented a car in a city I’d never been to for a meeting with an important new client. The corporate office was out of town. I arrived over the weekend and took a drive to the place the day before I was expected just so I’d know precisely where I was going. Navigation is not my strong suit and this was long before Garmin or Waze.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Cell phones are a godsend when it comes to being late whether or not it’s ones fault. That said, it pays to apologize for tardiness regardless of situation and/or who’s to blame.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can’t fathom sashaying into an interview late and not saying a word! Clearly it’s the cool thing to do for some folks.

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