When Unpunctuality Is The Norm, You Have To Conform


untitledI’ve posted about Malaysian unpunctuality years ago and just read this excellent article about the same issue in the NST. In the beginning when I attended media events, I was always on time until it slowly dawned on me that there was no point being on time when everyone else was late because that meant having to pay for another hour of parking. For example, if the event is at KLCC, the parking charges are horrendously expensive and in 3 hours, expect to pay RM13 which is what I paid a week ago while attending an evening event near KLCC.

Yesterday afternoon, I got the time wrong for the event and arrived way before 3pm which is when people started to arrive. Normally, one would expect the event to begin half an hour after the stated time for arrival of guests but this one didn’t start till 4pm by which time I was getting concerned about the weather as I could hear thunder rumbling. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in heavy traffic during a downpour. That would be seriously inconvenient.

Sometimes I wonder if we Malaysians are accepting of unpunctuality because we are generally a patient lot. I seem to be the only person getting nervous while the clock ticks away. I want to get away before traffic builds up and I definitely don’t want to pay more for parking just because people choose to start the event late. That makes it hard for me to actually enjoy any event nowadays because my precious time is being whittled away slowly but surely.

Then there are instances where the emcee keeps saying the event will begin in 5 minutes and then it doesn’t. The 5 minutes turns into 10 and then 20 minutes. Whenever the emcee announces that the event is about to begin, I am highly sceptical. Like Winston Churchill, I am of the opinion that unpunctuality is a vile habit but I am beginning to accept that it is the norm and I have no choice but to conform. What is the point of being on time if I know I’ll have to wait a long time before the event is about to begin? Better to be there just as the emcee begins the event. The trick is arriving at least half an hour late since I know there’s absolutely no way the event will start within the half hour. That way, I don’t have to wait at all so conformity it is. After all, we run on Malaysian time which is so very flexible.

I believe that people are unpunctual because they think it’s all right to be so. There is scant respect for anyone’s time here. They seem to think that we like to sit around chatting with each other while waiting for an event to start. I wish I had as much patience as some of the other guests. The events I have attended where it starts according to schedule are few and far between. It’s never going to change because we’re so used to it.

It’s not just media events that I have experienced unpunctuality. Years ago, I met the owner of a beauty brand (his stores are at The Gardens) and he asked me to go over to his store on a certain date where he’d pass me some products. The day came and I was on time at his store. However he was nowhere to be seen. His staff said that he was at a meeting at the café next door on the link bridge between MidValley and The Gardens. So I walked over there and he said he was having a meeting and would let me know when he finished. Well he really kept me hanging on because an hour passed and he hadn’t called so I went back to his store only to be told by his staff that he’d gone somewhere else. Maybe he thought he could do this to me because I am just a ‘small fry’. He didn’t even have the decency to send a message of apology. What a specimen. Fine, like I would ever spend a sen on any of his brands. EVER.