Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two Minutes: Respecting time and others

“Two minutes!” the voice pleads through the small crack that was now suddenly closed. Half timid, half annoyed, I refrained from knocking again. Having run up a flight of stairs, anxious that I would miss my 3 PM conference, I leaned against the wall. Predictably, I fetched my phone from the pockets of my trousers and embark on a quest through Instagram. Before long my butt met the floor, my hand still attached to my phone and my ear yearned for the sound of the door to open. Two minutes passed to ten. Out of Candy Crush lives, I knocked again. Another plea for “Two minutes!” is heard.
            Since when did two minutes translate to twelve? Unfortunately, this was not an acute problem; instead it permeates geographical, cultural and socioeconomic borders. When did we start negating standard time?
Is everyone late?
            “Time is money!” must be one of the most prominent slogans in business. Unlike money, time can’t be rewind or recovered. In primary school, I participated in endless time management courses. Dazed and confused, I could not understand the importance of such sessions. The time is available everywhere, count all the clocks that are around you. Technological advances have allowed us to tell time instantaneously. We no longer need to decode the sundial or analyse the moon to find the time. Thus, why are people becoming more and more tardy? Or have we always been tardy? Or as I’d like to call it, time insensitive.
            In the past week alone, I have had to push back meetings, leave meeting halfway through, and basically reschedule a majority of my schedule due to other people being tardy. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this article is dedicated towards life’s lost time, as well as all the adjustments that each of us, both tardy and punctual, have to make accordingly. As a college student, I had certain stereotypes regarding people of various disciplines. However, all of these expectations have shattered.
To be honest, more often than not, I can only count on theatre people to come early, if not on time. Despite late rehearsal hours, each member comes early, sparing enough time to warm up, discuss certain issues, and prepare. During rehearsal, everyone’s preparation and at-home work are tested. For instance, actors learn their lines beforehand, trying hard to start remembering prior to the scheduled day when they need to be off book. Directors, on the other hand, come prepared with notes and strategies to move the show forward. Afterwards, we file out of the theatre after rehearsal ends, trying hard to keep it as tidy and clean as possible. Individuals who do not perform will often be notified during or after rehearsal. Nevertheless, despite the discipline that many theatre artists share, some still struggle. Yet, due to a strict system where notification and criticism are constantly provided in order to ensure that the preparation, i.e. rehearsal and tech, as well as the performance itself will go smoothly. Prioritizing on a common goal helped the cast and crew to check their ego at the door, as well as truly dedicate the designated time to the process.
Constrictions, be it in terms of budget or time, often act as drivers toward punctuality. For some reason, being poor in time and less pertinently, in funds lead towards a higher respect for your own time and other people’s as well. This brings me to the core of the discussion: respect, or lack thereof.

Or be punctual for the sake of being professional?

Being tardy, providing faulty pleas for more time, failing to notify people of delays ahead of time are just examples of disrespect. A few days ago, I ran from one building to another after messaging the person in charge of the meeting that I would be five minutes late, only to have to wait for twenty minutes because the speaker came late. A few months back, a friend laughed at me after I answered her question as to why I was early after telling her that I would be late. Granted I had just made a fool of myself by setting myself up to wait for half an hour for my friend and her boyfriend. Nevertheless, I told her that I would be late because I had predicted the risk based on the way traffic was moving. I would rather wait than cause her any inconvenience.
Respecting other people’s time entails respecting their schedule, personal and professional life, as well as their relationship with you. It shows that you acknowledge the other person’s life beyond this bubble you share with them. Moreover, it helps us manoeuvre various social borders, be it between managers and officers; parents and children; teachers and students; directors and actors; and so on. Although the politics of time tends to be convoluted, I believe that time remains one of the few fair elements in life, in the sense that time is granted to each one of us. Perhaps, our lifespans may not match, however seconds are always the same for everyone, so are minutes, hours, and days.
Ultimately, this directs me to my final point, which is to appreciate time and all the possibilities that come with it. The most frustrating aspect of facing tardiness is lost opportunities. For instance, if everyone were to be on time, we could realistically schedule back to back meetings. Hence, we might be able to fulfil our obligations on time, leave work early and spend more time with our family. On a larger scale, following a predetermined schedule can speed things along when it comes to projects with a lengthy supply chain.
As I resumed my position on the floor, I heard my stomach growl. Much like the matchstick girl who fantasized about the feast and the warmth of the indoors, I fantasized about all the things I could do with the time I had just lost. I could have gone up the stairs calmly, grab a cup of coffee or talk to my friends just a bit longer. Perhaps, I could have even scheduled a meeting with that other professor. The thoughts went on until the door clicked and I was finally in. Before my thirty minutes was up, I was pushed out the door because he needed to meet with another student. I thanked my lucky stars that I did not procrastinate and was only there to submit the work due in two weeks.

*Images are provided by the author

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