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Life as I See It

“FASHIONABLY LATE” OR “IRRESPONSIBLY LATE”?????

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Written by Funmi Owo

For a long time, I had never thought too seriously about getting to social events late. It didn’t really matter much to me if I got to an “Owanbe” 3 hours after the reception had started, after all everyone should be thankful that I still made it for the event. I would only make a fuss about it if I didn’t get “small chops” to eat. (Which is usually one of my biggest motivations for attending any event, don’t blame me joo)

On another hand, if I had to meet up with someone, I always thought it better for him/her to wait for me, than for me to wait for anybody. It never seemed too bad if anyone had to wait 30-40 minutes for my grand arrival; I always had my ‘superbly drafted apology speech” to douse any anger, or my “award winning smile” to cool the temper down. These two elements often work the magic, especially when artfully combined together.

If tables turned however and I had to wait for “ANYBODY”, regardless of your name, age or status in the society, for as much as five minutes, nothing would be able to appease” my anger as no excuse, apology or explanation would suffice. I would throw tantrums and have a sour mood for the better part of the outing.

Interestingly, this concept of being fashionably late is common to a very good number of Nigerians generally. We all just do it in different degrees and measures. So in some contexts, it is cool and fashionable to come late while in some other contexts, it is absolutely irresponsible to be late. How do we draw the line?

I was at a corporate event recently, where a life changing deal was about to be signed between a top Nigerian Company and a multinational. The representatives of the multinational had flown into the country the day before simply for this event.

On the day of the signing, I had arrived very early at the event along with some other colleagues of mine; the “Oyinbos” got there very early too. We were all ready to get the deal signed and done……and then the wait began. One of our own top execs was yet to arrive, and without him, NOTHING could be done.
While we waited, we enjoyed some small talk and had ourselves a little breakfast. As calls were being made to the “big man” to find out where exactly he was, some of us were praying under our breath, “God, please don’t let these Oyinbo men vex and go, we have to close this deal”

Everytime the door opened, I turned with so much hope and expectations that it would be the “Oga” we were waiting for. The disappointment was always fresh everytime I saw that it was just the chef coming to check if we wanted anything more to eat. * Sighs*

I wondered to myself as I sipped my fresh juice, “Why was the man not there yet?’ This deal in question was a very BIG DEAL, and without him the deal could not be finalized. It took over two years of begging, scrutinizing, appraisals and endless back and forth for the deal to get to the point of being finalized and
signed. Was he trying to show somebody “pepper” by coming late? Or is it encrypted somewhere in the D.N.A of “Nigerian Big Men” to get to functions late whether corporate, social, religious or political.

Just as our business partners announced that we would have to continue with the event, with or without our boss, in came the big man, exactly ONE HOUR after the event was billed to start. He came in armed with a smile and a dozen dry jokes that we were all compelled to laugh at, “Oyinbos Inclusive”. Even as I laughed, I caught myself shaking my head for him internally. At that point, no excuse he would have given me would have sufficed, not like the man owed me any explanation by the way. This meeting was a meeting he had known about for weeks, or even months. He should have woken up at 4.30a.m if that was what he had to do to get to the venue at the right time.

The more I thought about it, the more I judged my Boss. “He is simply irresponsible”, “He has just embarrassed Nigerians and the whole of Africa before our business Partners’, “This is terribly unacceptable”. I went on and on in my mind, until it suddenly occurred to me that I was seeing an exact replica of my own actions to others in the past.

Real shame flushed my face as it occurred to me that all I needed was consistent practice of going late for “small things” such as beach outings with my friends, wedding receptions of my colleagues, volunteer meetings etc. and in a short while I would be getting to “big things” board meetings, interviews, and other important functions late.

This is how I got to know that what we have trendily termed “fashionably late” would more accurately be described as “Irresponsibly late” in most contexts. No more lateness for me, especially when it can be avoided.

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