You’re late, if you’re 30 minutes early for an appointment



LAST FRIDAY, was my unlucky day for a business appointment. I left Bicutan, Paranaque, at 11a.m, which I thought was an ample time for me to reach my 2p.m meeting in Timog, Quezon City. That was my expectation. The reality was I arrived 30 minutes late and missed an important client who left some few minutes early. Luckily, I didn’t lose the consultancy contract for my lateness.

No, I’m not making an excuse. No matter how trite it has become, I will tell you just the same that our daily heavy traffic was contributory to my being unprofessional. Coming in on time for a meeting is always a challenge in Metro Manila. It has reached a crisis level that people in government are now thinking of arming President Rodrigo RoaDuterte with emergency powers.

What’s clever about it? I’m not sure.

In the meantime, why can’t we simply harvest many low-hanging fruits around us? I mean, why can’t we implement inexpensive, common sense solutions that are right before our eyes? For one, the local government units should start removing obstructions like street vendors, illegally parked vehicles, makeshift basketball courts and illegal jeepney terminals. Even the ubiquitous tricycles and de-padyaks (manually-driven sidecars) must be driven out of the major chokepoints for the benefit of the greater majority.

I must tell you that punctuality is one of my cherished personal values. Whenever I’m late for a business appointment, it would adversely affect my mood for the rest of the day. My belief in punctuality was bolstered by my experience when I studied in Tokyo in 1993 for my yearlong management fellowship together with 22 human resource managers from all over Asia.

If you’re 30 minutes early, then you’re late. Much more, if you’re just in time, you’re late just the same. The trouble is that many of us Filipinos walk in tardy to meetings with a smile. Sometimes, I see people coming in late as if nothing troublesome happened. And so, how do you get even?

Back to Tokyo, I remember when a poor guy from another developing Asian country came in late for our meetings, we would often greet him with a loud and sarcastic applause, punctuated with horselaughs from everyone. It was a mild team rebuke often addressed to the offenders.

Here in Manila, I would often suggest to the meeting chairman to stick to the agenda so that we can finish on time. The earlier, the better so that we can adjourn right away and psychologically penalize a latecomer. Once you think about it, it isn’t really much at all, but it sounds big to an incurable early bird like me. And if you’re used to being punctual, adjournment on time could be equally rewarding.

But really, how do you get even to habitually tardy people who, if you will read an invisible thought line on top of their heads, would have something like this to say? “It’s better to arrive late, than to arrive ugly or words to that effect.” Maybe, they’re referring to punctual people as newcomers in the field.

Now, tell me; who are the incurable tardy “professionals” in our world—doctors, lawyers, or politicians? You can add your own perception to this list. I heard that doctors are terribly notorious for their tardiness. One reason for this is that—doctors come in late so they will show an impression they’re busy with so many patients who believe in their medical prowess even if they’re at the nearby Starbucks.

Many doctors come in late to impress people they’ve been accommodating to other patients like Miss Diabetes and Mister Stroke who were asking a lot of questions about their medical condition, as they require referrals for multiple specialists, preferably those who can give the highest commission.

We wonder about the curious fact of modern life that one’s misery is another man’s opportunity. Every day, there are millions of people with various problems who spend at least five hours (including commuting time and watching beautiful people) so that professionals whom they chose to consult will be there to help.

Now, what if we understand the inexpensive solution to the sad reality of a progressive life? To get the best possible advice from a professional, why don’t you simply check the internet for some answers, at least while we’re waiting for the government to solve the traffic problem?

Would this fall under the category of self-medication or self-gratification?

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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