Armenian Punctuality: Our Shame

Keghart.com Editorial Board, 24 July 2012

You hate to wait at the dentist’s or at the doctor’s clinic. You hate when your date or friend is late for lunch. You get impatient when you wait for the bus or for the departure of your delayed flight. You know that you have to hand your thesis to your professor on time, file your taxes before the deadline and deliver the product/service to your customer on time. You also probably believe that, in today’s parlance, time is money.

Why then so many Armenians are invariably late for Armenian community events and even to Holy Mass? Why do we shamelessly chuckle and snigger when we refer to our tardiness as good old Armenian Punctuality. Some of us don’t think twice about stepping out of the church for a quick smoke before returning to Holy Mass. We also don’t mind sashaying into the community hall long after the program or meeting has begun.

Keghart.com Editorial Board, 24 July 2012

You hate to wait at the dentist’s or at the doctor’s clinic. You hate when your date or friend is late for lunch. You get impatient when you wait for the bus or for the departure of your delayed flight. You know that you have to hand your thesis to your professor on time, file your taxes before the deadline and deliver the product/service to your customer on time. You also probably believe that, in today’s parlance, time is money.

Why then so many Armenians are invariably late for Armenian community events and even to Holy Mass? Why do we shamelessly chuckle and snigger when we refer to our tardiness as good old Armenian Punctuality. Some of us don’t think twice about stepping out of the church for a quick smoke before returning to Holy Mass. We also don’t mind sashaying into the community hall long after the program or meeting has begun.

[Punctuality, like its cousin punctuation, means to adhere to a set point in time or place. In Armenian it’s “jstabahootune”. “Jst/jist” is a cognate of the English “just”, French “juste” and Latin “Justus”. It’s the same word in Persian.]

*****

ALITALIA: Always Late in Take-offs /Always Late in Arrival.
DELTA: Departing Even Later Than Anticipated.
JAL: Journey Always Late.
JAT: Joke About Time.
LOT: Last One There.
MEA: Might Even Arrive.
PAL: Plane Always Late.

Why is it that when unhappy flyers want to mock an airline their first target is the airline’s supposed tardiness? The answer is plain: on time departure and arrival are a priority passengers, just as they are in business and social encounters.

Far too many Armenians are “fashionably late” for community events. After all, arriving on time or slightly before the announced starting time might betray earnestness by these laggards or suggest they lead such boring, socially deprived and empty lives that they are desperate for an outing. “Fashionably late” in their small minds is a status message to everyone: we lead such super-exciting lives that it is difficult for us to wrest from our fabulous lives to attend a mere Armenian function. Perhaps we should be grateful for their noblesse oblige sacrifice.  

Some Armenians say they come in late because they know that if they are on time no one will be there. Meanwhile, event organizers start the function later than the announced time because they expect attendees to be late. A vicious circle. Unfortunately, both assumptions are correct.

We don’t want to delve into the obvious damages Armenian Punctuality inflicts on our national and social fabric, commitment, enthusiasm, our projects, plans and goals. It wouldn’t be too risky to speculate that some frustrated Armenians, put off by the cavalier Armenian “tradition”, stay away from community gatherings

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Management course students are taught that punctuality indicates commitment, consistency, promptness, interest, self-esteem, enthusiasm, determination, seriousness, conscientiousness, reliability… it’s a highly-valued hallmark of the professional. Armenian Punctuality signals the absence of the attributes listed at the beginning of this paragraph.

To be redundant, we have to point that time is the building block of life. Minutes multiplied by billions add up to our lives. People who adhere to Armenian Punctuality steal countless hours from the lives of Armenians who arrive at community events on time. In extremes, the stragglers, the tardy, the laggards, the “fashionably late” steal slices off the life of the punctual and conscientious Armenian.

Shame on the misguided, complacent Armenians who perpetuate this embarrassing Armenian Punctuality “tradition”. They have blithely transformed the myth into fact.

Punctuality is about respect for others and about self-respect.

Any book you pick about the Armenians, written by odars (not Turks) would mention that Armenians are historically renowned for their patriotism, industriousness, intelligence, business acumen, tight-knit communities and families, and belief in education.

Let’s mend our ways before the word gets out that we have a casual relationship with time, that when it comes to time we are “relativists” but not the way Einstein meant. Armenian Punctuality doesn’t jibe with most of the positive national attributes by which odars define us.

 

7 comments
  1. Bad Habit

    Some people make fun of the Germans because Germans are "too rigid, disciplined" and are "too observant" of punctuality. I would bet that if the Germans had no respect for punctuality they wouldn't have achieved their tremendous economic success soon after their Second World War debacle. 

  2. Excellent Article!

    So true in every way. For 100 years (maybe more) this bad habit hasn't been corrected yet. Are we against evolution?

  3. Armenian Punctuality

    I hope many would read the article, learn from it and spread the word. It is a sign of bad manners and disrespect to others. We should not respect the latecomers by waiting for them to start an event, and then seat them in the front row.      

  4. Let’s teach them….

    This will not change, even after a certain generation of Armenians who have set their roots in the West. We take it for granted (and in fact, demand) for events to start on time when we go to the theatre, cinema, sporting events in the countries where we live, but when it comes to Armenian functions, we instinctively adopt the attitude of ''aman babam, they won't start on time anyhow.''  Well, let us show them the opposite! Let all Armenian functions whether it is dance party, theatrical performance, cinema, committee meetings, concerts, sporting events start on time and doors close until there is a break, as it is done in London, Toronto and elsewhere.

    During a sporting event such the Wimbledon tennis tournament, spectators cannot come back to their seats until a game is over and the players change sides or take a short break. Sooner or later, the whole psychology of the nation (Armenians)  will change and they will be expecting for things to start on time!

    Am I dreaming?

    I hope not.

     

  5. Could There be Solution to Tardiness?

    Excellent Article! Unfortunate but true. What surprises me the most is that the same Armenians who are perpetually late to Armenian events are rarely late for work, court hearings, opera, movies and many other events in our day-to-day life, as long as they are non-Armenian in nature.

    Let me give you an example of an episode in Ethiopia that I was involved in. Like Armenians, Ethiopians are also perpetually late. When I was teaching a “critical thinking” class at an MA-level journalism program at the Addis Ababa University (an afternoon class scheduled right after lunch) I noticed that in the first day over 50% of the students arrived late; some did not even show up. I heard from the students that tardiness and absenteeism was rampant, especially in afternoon classes. I told the students that 50% of their grade will be based on attendance and tardiness would have a 25% penalty. In that semester I had only a few late arrivals and no absenteeism. Please, ANYONE, try to find out if there is a similar solution for our Armenian friends who are perpetually late for Armenian events. Armenians should adhere to the more positive characteristics which we are known for, rather than conforming to the negative image associated with “Armenian punctuality.”

  6. Hitchcock’s Idea

    Firm director Alfred Hitchcock had a brillliant idea. When he made "Psycho" he ordered theatre doors locked once the movie started. He said that late-comers would distract the punctual customers and ruin the movie's suspense.

    We should lock the doors to Armenian events the minute they begin on time. Keep the laggards, the disrespectful out.

  7. Tardiness

    Many years ago a good friend of mine who was involved in theater told me that only a Romanian Armenian man of theater did not follow this "tradition". This artist, whose name escapes me, had even started the show with only  15 spectators . The late comers could not get in until the end of first act. 

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