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The question

What am I to do with a friend who is habitually 15 to 30 minutes late for our biweekly dinners? I’ve gone from hints to snide remarks to openly saying: “Will you be on time?” All to no avail. We go for dinners on days when she is not working because, as she pointed out repeatedly, she cannot finish work at a reliable time. Her excuses are now traffic, parking, need gas – all foreseeable hindrances. We have been friends since high school and are just outside the millennial generation. I am getting increasingly annoyed at her tardiness.

The answer

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I had a friend like that once. Always late – if she showed up at all.

What I did with her was I would bring a book whenever we were supposed to meet.

If she didn’t show, I would close the book and leave.

My rule with her and I suppose the rule in general for lateniks is and should be: “I’ll gracefully wait 15 minutes. After 30, I bounce.”

At which point, she would be confronted with an empty table. And an empty table sends a strong message.

If you want to send a stronger message, then go for it. It sounds like you’ve already talked to her but maybe you need to use stronger language.

I’ve discussed your dilemma with quite a few people, and many of them say: “Oh if I had a friend like that, that would be that and I’d dump them.”

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But that, I feel, is a little too easy to say. I’ve been a latenik at times. God, how many times was I late for everything when my kids were little?

Especially in winter. You struggle and battle and finally get them into their parka or snowsuit or whatever.

Then you’re like: “Okay, finally, finally we’re going to get out the door.”

But then they look up at you and say something like (and this was a famous line from our family – I mean, famous to us): “I’m hungry and I’m thirsty and I have to pee and poo.”

And you head back in and the parka or snowsuit or whatever comes off and you do whatever business has to be done and then the parka goes back on, etc etc.

And you become late. But obviously (a) it doesn’t sound like that’s your friend’s problem (what with the excuses about gas and whatnot), and (b) in this age of constant communication and cellphones, you let the other person know what your status is.

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So you should at least tell her that. “Phone me or text me if you’re going to be late.”

Though the truth is I hate that as well. I yearn and pine for the days when you could simply say “Let’s get together a week from Tuesday at 6 o’clock” – and that would be that!

No follow-up phone calls, no confirmations. You would simply get together a week from Tuesday at 6 and that would be that.

Anyway that’s a fantasy from ye olden days of yore, I suppose. What bothers me these days is the endless malleability of people getting together – thanks to cellphones.

Example: I would be supposed to meet a certain friend at, say, 11:00 but then at 10:30 he’d call and say: “You know what? I’m running a little late. Can we reschedule to noon?”

Then he’d call at 11:30 and say: “Could we make it 2:00?” and sometimes we wouldn’t wind up getting together at all.

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Which is a terrible waste of another person’s time – and as I’ve said in this space recently but would like to reiterate: Wasting other people’s time is a terrible sin.

Also: something I’m always trying to teach my boys (and in fact am always having to relearn myself): “It’s important to do what you say you’re going to do.”

So maybe you could say something similar to your friend.

Something akin to: “I need you to show up when you say you will. It seems like a small thing but these things are a form of promise – covenants, if you will. And when broken you lose faith and trust in the other person.”

I suppose that might sound not only old-school but perhaps a little Old Testament but honestly – and I’ll never stop saying it – wasting another person’s time is a sin.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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