Jean was running about 45 minutes late. Kelly was Jean’s client, so Kelly needed to stay put, and smile cheerfully when Jean showed up, apologizing. “Oh, it’s not big deal, it gave me a chance to catch up on email a bit.” Got to keep the client happy. Besides, Jean is usually cutting it close. However, today, one of Jean’s clients was running late. We could all share a good laugh about this chain reaction. Jean’s client, Kim, had some car trouble, and had been late to her appointment to get her car looked at, so she had to wait at the mechanic for an extra half hour.
The problem was, One of the mechanics had gotten sick only an hour into his shift, and had to go home. Had Kim left the house on time, and not five minutes late, she wouldn’t have gotten stuck behind that accident on the freeway, which delayed her another 30 minutes, past the time where the Auto Center was fully staffed, and could have had her “in and out” as always.
Five minutes becomes thirty, thirty becomes sixty, sixty becomes…..you get the idea. Plus, when one party is a little late, there is not only the obligatory “small talk”, but it somehow seems to magnify a bit….. breaking the tension ahead of the tardiness.
So what’s wrong with being late? Well, that depends. For some, it is just a fact of life. We need to remain flexible, ready for any option. For others, it lands somewhere between rude and frustrating. On this day, it meant a bit more.
On this day, Kelly’s husband, a volunteer paramedic, was due to start his shift at 7pm. With three children at home, one parent needed to be there, in order for the other to leave. Alternatively, in cases of known “scheduling difficulties”, a babysitter could be arranged. Normally not a huge problem, there was the occasional close call. To Kelly’s husband, punctuality was always important, but flexibility came with the territory sometimes. However, today, at 7pm, there was no Paramedic for the ambulance at 7pm. The earlier shift had been dispatched at 6:40, so at 7pm, a new crew should have been there to take over.
At 7:08pm, a person drove up to the station with a person who had been stung by a bee at a nearby park, and was having an Anaphylactic Reaction, but her Epi-Pen had not produced relief. An on duty, in station medic could have administered additional medication, and begun rapid transport to the hospital. However, an incomplete crew could do nothing. A Paramedic from the next closest station was dispatched. By the time the next closest medic arrived, 6 minutes later, the patient was unconscious, and failing fast.
What causes people to be late? Of course, it varies. Some things in their control, some things not in their control, both categories sometimes open for debate. However, for those who are “temporally challenged”, just remember that, sometimes, being a few minutes late just MAY be the difference between life and death. You don’t know what those five minutes could mean to somebody.