DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have never been late for anything in our lives -- until recently. On two separate occasions in the past month, we have been reprimanded for not arriving at least 20 minutes before the time designated for professional appointments.
Granted, small print on the cards advised arriving earlier, but if the appointed time clearly designated on the card is 3:30, we feel that we are not late until then. If we need to be there at 3:10, then 3:10 should be the appointed time, not 3:30.
I never considered appointment times to be subjective, and I haven’t been particularly polite to those who accused us of being late. What is going on here? Has someone changed the definition of “appointed time”?
GENTLE READER: It seems that all people now make up their own definitions, so Miss Manners cannot blame you for being confused. Doctors’ offices are among the worst offenders, issuing appointments ostensibly for the time that the doctor is ready to see you. Would that it were so.
But this then makes necessary the admonition you mention so that patients will arrive with sufficient time to fill out the mounds of required paperwork.
Professionals who wish to show respect for patients -- and perhaps also for tight schedules, both their own and their patients’ -- would do well to begin issuing appointments for the time when the client is expected to arrive. She notes that surgical hospitals have already achieved this miracle, unfortunately by subtracting not minutes, but hours, from the time when the doctor is ready to receive.