In London, timekeeping isn’t really our forte.
Just as losing half of your flat deposit is a normal part of renting from an estate agent (this week I found out it costs a landlord £300 to paint a wall – who knew?) being late for things is part of everyday London life. And that’s despite our impressive collective walking speed, which is roughly 5 mph faster than the European average*.
*made up stat
Clearly, we try not to be late – have you ever seen a Londoner going for a stroll? – but experience tells us that in a city of this size, with this much going on…it’s simply not possible.
Londoners are late because London makes us that way.
It’s not our fault, you see.
Theoretically we know it’s possible to get everywhere – east, west, north, south, or to the pub down the road – in “about 20 minutes” – but London continually precludes us from doing so.
We face severe delays, buses on diversion and slow walking tourists; tube doors that shut seconds before we get to them, and sometimes a wait of up to six minutes for a Jubilee line train instead of two. With all that to contend with, is it any surprise that our timekeeping isn’t up to scratch?
That being said, there are of course exceptions.
It’s easy to spot a Londoner who manages to consistently run on time. They’re the ones standing alone outside pubs, bars, restaurants and tube stations, waiting for everybody else.
Their friends arrive 15 minutes later – sweaty, flustered from speed walking – armed with entirely valid excuses: “bus nightmare – the driver stopped at every single red light” or “sorry I’m late, there were pandas on the tube again – you know how it is”.
At this point, friends must offer sympathies and tell their own journey story (“reduced escalator service, for gods sake”), and then everyone can get on with the day.
Above all, it’s just evolution.
Whereas the inhabitants of other cities around the world have evolved to “get up earlier” or “leave an extra 20 minutes, just in case”, Londoners have developed a different set of coping skills.
We tut at the traffic, walk really quickly, and mutter “for gods sake, move” at people we deem to be going too slowly. And if time starts to get really tight in the morning, we just take our make-up onto the tube, have a shave on the train, or bring our mug of steaming hot coffee onto the bus with us.
Because although we could leave earlier, we know we shouldn’t have to. This is a big city, after all. It’s not us that’s late, it’s everything else failing to run on time.
And in London, that’s just the way it is.