If the delay is a disturbance, my punctuality can also be a problem – 27/09/2021 – João Pereira Coutinho

The problem with punctuality is that there is never anyone there to appreciate it. Said witty, known, dramatically true. I’m a witness. When I arrive, there are no witnesses.

In such a way that, with age, with experience, with need, I started taking work just to fill the time. I’ve already started and finished certain works while waiting —“War and Peace”, “Anna Karenina”, so on. I learned to sew. I do pedicures with a certain degree of professionalism.

And my naps go through the five classic stages of sleep. When I wake up and the partner finally shows up, I find with sadness that the room service is no longer what it used to be. He didn’t even bring breakfast on a tray.

Some friends, professionals of backwardness, accuse themselves of “intransigence” with punctuality (“Are you a Nazi, by any chance?”). And they advise, in the name of my health, a little more tolerance (“Nobody dies”).

I tried. Violating my nature, I started arriving ten, 20, 30 minutes late. Did not work. The person he was waiting for added ten, 20, 30 minutes of delay to his usual delay, as if there was a magnetic force between us, preventing a shortening of the distance.

Now that I think about it, maybe the way is for me to arrive early: if I go back ten, 20, 30 minutes, maybe the guy can take a step back from his delay and arrive at the agreed time. I will try.

Moral of the story?

I am definitely not surrounded by Protestants, much less Calvinists. Punctuality, a concept that does not exist in the Greco-Latin civilization, was a product of the reform: from that moment when the relationship between men and God dispensed with institutional mediation and human conduct, in its most daily and minute details, it came to be watched by the boss from up there.

Industry is the offspring of this new relationship of vigilance: idle hands do the Devil’s work, to use the famous phrase. Translation: if we want to be rewarded for our earthly actions, it is better not to waste time, nor to make Coutinho wait.

Furthermore, the commercial and industrial society that Protestantism promoted only reinforced the virtue of diligence. As Max Weber recalled in the classic “Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism”, it is not possible to fulfill orders, deadlines or contracts ignoring the hands of the clock.

And, of course, it is not possible to work in the factory or in the office without basic entry and exit criteria for employees.

That’s why people in the north take their wristwatch seriously. When we travel to the south, we also travel to a kind of neopantheism in which the sun starts to guide the troops and there are only three possible times: morning, afternoon and night.

A meeting “in the morning” means somewhere between ten and noon. The “afternoon” concept never starts before four. And whoever arranges a dinner knows that it oscillates between dusk and dawn.

That, at least, was the usual theory. Because now there is another one, a child of this time when the medicalization of life offers all the answers.

I read in the French newspaper Le Figaro that people who are habitually remiss in their hours can suffer from various ailments.

Attention deficit is at the top of the list. But there are also obsessive-compulsive disorders and various phobias that prevent the citizen from leaving home to meet schedules.

Not to mention histrionic, or clearly narcissistic, personalities who need the audience’s expectation for a grand entrance. As if they were pop stars at the concert.

In this latest version, I’m the one failing to applaud the diva when she arrives. A thousand apologies. Next time, I promise to bring flowers.

In fact, if the lack of punctuality reveals a disturbance, it cannot be excluded that my punctuality is also one. Childhood trauma, low self-esteem, taste for masochism — who knows?

One of these days, while I wait and despair on any corner of the city, I will still be removed from the sidewalk by two nurses.

Alright, I’m ready for the date. I just hope they’re punctual.

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