On punctuality: Wasting someone's time is a great sin

I am a great admirer of the economist Tyler Cowen, and the only time I ever have wanted to wring his neck and stomp him into pink goo was when he approvingly quoted the economist Umesh Vazirani to the effect that if you have never missed a flight, then you are wasting too much time in airports. The last-second traveler is a bane of airports and trains, disrupting processes such as check-in and security screening — both of which already are annoying enough — insisting that he be rushed through because he could not be bothered to show up with sufficient time for the admittedly sclerotic process. My morning subway in New York’s financial district, which runs every three minutes during rush hours, is invariably held up by somebody holding the door for himself or a slow-going companion — who is not in such a hurry that he can be bothered to precede the train to its stop but in such a hurry that he cannot wait three minutes for the next train. Civilization means voluntarily enduring some small inconveniences to facilitate order. (Small inconveniences, Herr TSA Gropenfuhrer — small.)…

I am a puritan on the issue of punctuality: 15 minutes before the movies, 20 minutes before theater, two hours or more before a flight, 30 minutes before an intercity train, etc. If I have to leave myself some extra time on Joe Lhota’s account, so be it. (I have been known to cancel dates over a 15-minute lapse.) This is, I am willing to admit, a pretty poor strategy in some ways — e.g., I do not remember the last time I was on a flight that took off on time. But the prospect of being late fills me with anxiety, a fact that I attribute to having spent my formative years working in daily newspapers. A production manager once informed me that missing the paper’s deadline cost us several hundred dollars a minute. I once had a candidate for a reporter’s job show up for the interview a half an hour late. I did not even come down the stairs, but yelled at him from the landing, emphasizing that the newspaper is a deadline-oriented enterprise. Perhaps he’ll be a senator someday.