Saturday, November 9, 2013

The agony of waiting for fellow Filipinos

I hate being late. I had grown up with the discipline of arriving at things fifteen minutes early. But I learned that if I arrived fifteen minutes early, then I was probably going to be waiting for most people at least half an hour. Prof. Carljoe Javier At first, I would get furious. Why were they making me wait? We had set a time, why didn't they respect that time? I had learned that it was important to respect other people's time. As one of the most limited and valuable assets we have, someone making time for you, setting aside part of their schedule for you, was supposed to mean a lot. And you weren't supposed to waste that time. Making someone wait, as far as this thinking is concerned, means that you believe that your time is more valuable so you can make them wait. It's easy to see also how manipulating time can be used to establish power relations. When I approached my value of time from this perspective, considering it as a finite resource and attaching the way that a person valued me to their punctuality or willingness to make me wait, then I was nothing but frustrated. When I expressed my anger and frustration, I was told that that's just how things are here, that people are just always late. In time, I learned that it was best to treat meet up times as suggestions rather than appointments. But the question is, why? Why don't we hold people to the times that they set? Why doesn't anything ever start on time? Why are we so used to being made to wait? A friend of mine told me that she had to change her habits and become punctual when she was studying in another country. In that country, people considered punctuality an important value. You would also be called a liar if you were late. You gave a time to meet up and you didn't show up at the appointed time. That makes sense, right? But it's such a heavy thing, to be called a liar and as a result to be thought of as a person who is untrustworthy because you can't keep your word. I can only speculate about how important punctuality might have been in earlier times. But as a social value that people are held to now, punctuality doesn't matter too much. We all have friends who are perennially late, that person who just can't come on time. How do we handle these friends? In my own circles of friends, we tell certain people that we are meeting an hour earlier than we actually are, so that they'll come on time. And even then, they'll be late. One of the reasons why we accept lateness is traffic. One of the constants of contemporary urban life, traffic is the easiest and best excuse for being late. No one can ever question it, because it pops up everywhere. Whether you're driving and in a traffic jam, or commuting and having trouble getting a ride or getting stuck in a jam or on a platform, getting from one place to another is always a hassle. And the moment that there's rain, a traffic collision, road work, or any variable, then everything becomes an even bigger mess. Traffic is its own incredibly complicated problem. It is such a massive and important issue, and yet we haven't found any way to really resolve it. My solution has been to leave hours in advance and then be ready with a book for long waiting times. But wouldn't it be great if we could set times and follow them? Say, if there were bus schedules that told us what time the next bus was arriving? Of course that would necessitate a reforming of the entire bus structure, I know. But wouldn't it be nice? And wouldn't it be great if we knew the intervals between the arrivals of trains? Also if we could get onto the trains without long waiting periods or scrum lines? I understand how being able to adjust to variables is important. Adapting to situations, having the skill and agility to move schedules around, and maximizing time are all important. But you have to wonder how this inability to establish and follow time affects productivity. Consider that when you are late for work, you're sometimes docked more pay than you were actually late. I used to work at a place that would dock us an hour of pay for being late, even if we were only late for a few minutes. Sometimes I was already there, but the machine wouldn't read my finger print. And so, yeah, late and penalized for it. Take into account too all the time wasted when waiting for people at meetings. When it's just a couple of people hanging out or meeting for dinner, that's alright, I suppose. But consider work meetings where you have to wait for people. A bunch of you are just sitting there waiting for someone. While some people utilize that time to catch up on their mobile gaming, when you multiply the number of people by the time wasted, you're losing some serious work time there. What should we do? Should we consider this lateness a permanent aspect of contemporary life in the Philippines? Do we accept that some people will just never be on time, that events just won't start on time? I learned to come later. I learned that I should be flexible and accept that people will get there when they get there. I learned to use traffic as an excuse, when really, I was just too lazy to get out of bed or leave the house early. I don't get frustrated or angry anymore. This is just how things are. I don't know if this is a good thing. – KDM,