The Association of Time & Respect

My exam is in 5 months time. I am freaking out!

My mom was telling me how 5 months was plenty of time to get ready for ANY exam. “Tapi kalau asyik kalut baca buku cerita, kalau ada masa setahun pun takkan sempat, Kak Ngah,” LOL *sarcasm detected*  

It’s not like I don’t know how precious time really is. I do know it. Allah Himself had sworn by Time in Surah Al-Asr.

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But knowing something is not enough to move me into acting on it. Because… how else can I explain my inability to stop wasting my oh-so-precious time and just study consistently from now on (and stop buying anymore fiction)?

Knowing something is just not enough prodding for me to resist the lure… especially when the temptation (in the form of book reviews by Goodreads/Amazon/BookDepository) proves too hot to resist? Once upon a time, when online shopping was unheard of, I could resist book reviews easily because there was just no other alternative. A Kedahan like me could only rely on Popular to supply me with new releases of books and what Popular didn’t sell, I wouldn’t be able to buy. Temptation was manageable then. (We don’t have MPH, Konokuniya or Borders in Alor Setar and thus Popular monopolizes the Alor Setar’s scenery of book selling industry until now. But alas, Popular has never been exactly great at updating their stocks of recent book releases.)

These days, temptation is impossible to brush off. I just bought myself a book by Mathew Reilly, The Three Secret Cities, via online shopping when I could not find the book in Popular despite the fact that it has been released since November. (I TOLD you Popular is SLOW!) So feeling exasperated by the long unfruitful waiting, I decided to go online-shopping to take care of the itch. Now, I am patiently waiting for the book to arrive on my doorstep.

Which means that when the book arrives, I won’t be studying, LOL. Yup, wasting my precious study time, I admit. But it’s not like I can concentrate on my studies anyway when I know the book is somewhere inside my house still awaiting my touch. Might as well I just get rid of the temptation and hopefully, I can then focus on my study… Amen.

***

But my time is MINE to waste it in any way I like. If my time were to be wasted anyway, I might as well be the one who DECIDE what I am going to waste it on. And since I am going to waste it regardless, I might as well waste it doing something enjoyable, right? (like reading fiction, hahah) Logic, si?

However, I resent having my time wasted by others, especially in cases when I have no say nor control on how it should be wasted on. I am not gonna tolerate having my time wasted by ANYONE unless I absolutely have no choice about it for some obscure reason.

For example, I tolerate people wasting my time by being late when they first show me how to hike a new track. Because I need them at that point. But once I have mastered the track and have stopped depending on people to show me the way, I prefer to go hiking by myself. I find it troublesome to wait for them when they are late… and I am not going to. If you are late, I will go without you. Next time, I won’t go hiking with you anymore unless you can prove to me that you are not going to make me wait. The reason I always try to make myself independent and self-sufficient as soon as possible is because my time is precious and it is MINE to waste it in however way I choose. I am not gonna waste it WAITING on people. If I were to waste it, I wanna waste it reading fiction, ok?

And so it goes, that I almost always hike by myself. Occasionally, when my friends ask me whether they can join me hiking, I make it compulsory for them to be on time. I will wait for them up to 10 minutes if they are not on time, and then that’s it! I will go without them and I am okay with that. I am okay doing things alone. If you are not okay to hike alone like I am, you follow MY time.

All my close friends know this about me. If they are close to me, chances are they are a punctual person, themselves. Even when they are not naturally a punctual person… at least when they have planned an activity with me, they made themselves punctual for me if they are my friends. Because they know, I can do most activities myself and I have no problem doing things myself. They are the ones who usually feel awkward doing things alone and ask me for company, so they have to abide by my rules. I can eat alone, walk alone, shop alone, … I don’t mind it. What I do mind, is waiting on people when I could have done something else with that time. 

Does that sound cold-blooded and inconsiderate? “You must do things my way because you are the one who need me and I don’t need you as much. So you must follow my rule if you are going to depend on me in doing this activity.” Hahha. Yeah, when put it that way, it does sound cold-blooded, isn’t it? And so insensitive, right? But I am just being honest, here.

In my opinion, for you to keep me waiting when YOU KNOW I must have been waiting, you are PURPOSEFULLY disrespecting me. In MY view, YOU are the insensitive one, here! Not me. I made the effort to see you on time even though I don’t really need you… because I respect you and I honour my obligation and my promise that I have made towards you to arrive at a specific particular place at a specific particular time. But you didn’t make an effort to arrive on time to see me even though you were the one who were asking for my company? (In my mind, I will be like, “Damn… I could have read a few more chapters of my latest fiction in my comfortable bed rather than waiting for you. What makes you think you are more enjoyable than my novel that I will be willingly waiting for you without feeling angry when you fail to be on time? Don’t you know that there are not many people whose company I enjoy more than my books?”) When you fail to be on time (+/- 10 mins are still acceptable; I have learned to tolerate that much) in my opinion, I am no longer obligated to be sensitive towards you and I will make my displeasure known. My cold-bloodedness… well, you earned it. You will be lucky if I ever agree to make any plans with you again. 

One of my friends (the nicest one hahah), said, “Afiza, relationship requires compromise. You have to meet people half way. Not everything must be done your way.”

I was like, “Oh? You mean, if my way is the punctual way, which is the right way… and the other person’s way is the non-punctual way, which is the wrong way… I must compromise MY right way for HER wrong way?”

“Is there always a wrong way or right way of doing things…. that’s dichotomous, isn’t it? What I am saying is, you must meet people half-way.”

I laughed. “Half way? You mean, if I am punctual… and that person is always 2 hours late… we must meet each other half-way by being one hour late instead?” *sarcasm detected* (and to answer her question… yes in certain things, there ARE the right way and the wrong way of doing things. If you think your way is more right than mine, engage my intellect by debating the matter with me and make me see. I will change my view if I am convinced. I am willing to change to follow the right way. See? I am willing to learn… to do things the right way or the more efficient way. Not because it is YOUR way or MY way…. but because it is the right way. When it comes to time, being punctual is OBVIOUSLY the right way. Otherwise, why bother specifying the time in doing anything?!)

My friend shrugged after hearing my answer. She knew I have made up my mind and there was nothing she could say that would change it. Yes… when it comes to being punctual, my mind is made up! The debate is closed! 

In my opinion, unless you are facing an emergency situation, there is NO JUSTIFICATION for you to be non-punctual! There is NO JUSTIFICATION for you to keep people waiting especially WHEN YOU KNOW that person is waiting! And if it happens multiple times, well, I am not going to tolerate it and my mind will conclude that “Obviously, there are discrepancies in our habits and attitude towards time, and therefore we cannot be friends. I value my time more than I value any relationship with a disorganized person.”

***

So when do I tolerate people not being punctual?

Obviously, I will tolerate them when I STILL need them (like in the case of people showing me the right track for hiking). To me, that is just simple strategy on my part. Since I need you, I will have no choice but to tolerate your annoying habits. But once I have mastered the skills that you have and is fully able to be independent, I will no longer tolerate your bad habits. I am not being disloyal… trust me, I would have been really honest about my dissatisfaction regarding your bad habits… but if you persist in doing them despite my clear communication of dissatisfaction, what else am I supposed to do? Eventually, after my obvious dissatisfaction is being brushed off, I will take that as a sign of disrespect and I am just going to have to say “Look, it’s been nice learning things from you… Thank you so much. But for now, I am just going to say good bye and do my own things for awhile…. well, unless you are willing to be on time when we next go for a hike. Otherwise, I will see you around, yeah? No hard feelings, ok!”

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That’s why I appreciate people who are on time! 

I don’t abandon my friends lightly. I do care about them. But the least they can do to show that they care about me in return…. is by being punctual. That’s all I ask (and of course, other than that, I also want them to have general good principles that align with mine. I am not going to be friends with murderers, thieves, psychopath, work-slackers…. well, you get the idea. Hahah) Luckily for me, my friends are mostly punctual. (Like I said, if they are not punctual as a habit, we would not have come to the stage of being friends in the first place. I would have abandoned them when we were at the stage of being acquaintances.). But even friends are allowed to have lapses and make mistakes. Tertidur, terlupa, unforeseeable emergency that crops up… those are understandable rare occurrences when my friends are late. I can tolerate that. These are the friends I keep… and they will enter my ‘inner circle’. To them, I will be loyal and supportive and transparent in my thoughts and my feelings. So, I am not that cold-blooded, am I? I do know how to be loyal and supportive and ehem, ‘nice’, but I am not like that for just anyone.

In fact, why should I?

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And trust me, NO ONE should be loyal and supportive and nice to EVERYONE. Who got the time, man? Why do you want to waste your resources like that? Be selective in whom you should be loyal/supportive/ nice to! Be that way with family and real friends who respect your principles and your boundaries! Invest your time where it is most beneficial to you. We don’t know how much TIME we have left on this earth and we should spend them wisely with people that matter. And with the rest of the others, just be generally polite and professional, abiding by the rules of social conduct (which includes being punctual) and fairness (which includes being honest) but not more than that. Don’t drain yourself with unnecessary obligations that will take away your resources. And believe me, your time is your resources. 

Time is not just gold and money. Time is LIFE!

 

***

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I also tolerate unpunctuality from superiors. Why? Because in order to complete our professional activities, subordinates need superiors. So, of course I will tolerate unpunctuality from them. Well, for awhile, at least. But again, eventually, I would make my dissatisfaction known.

When I was doing one of my clinical attachments in one particular hospital, I arrived to my first meeting with my supervisor 20 minutes late because in the letter I had received, I was told that I was supposed to report to Unit Sumber Manusia first. I didn’t know that it was customary to see the supervisor first before going to the Unit Sumber Manusia. How was I supposed to know the custom of a place I had never been to before? (Anyway, if that’s customary, it should be clearly communicated in the letter, shouldn’t it?). My supervisor told me “I am a punctual person, please try to be on time.” I was also quick to reply, “I came half an hour early and had reported to Unit Sumber Manusia as instructed by the letter given to me. I didn’t know I was supposed to see you first.” I hoped, I had made it clear that I was just as upset by the lack of proper planning and the bad communication that had taken place. I am always quite sorry when I am late… but NOT when I am late through no fault of mine! I am not willing to take a blame that is not mine to take.

I like structure, planned schedule, and having a timeline. To me, that’s professional work ethic. I can understand that sometimes the roster might be tight and superiors can be late in arriving on time especially if they have to cover multiple wards or workloads from their colleagues who are on leave. But if schedules are planned, and rosters are not that tight and many people are available, there is NO JUSTIFICATION for you to keep your subordinates waiting.

As an MO, I am in the middle position of being someone’s superior and also someone’s subordinate. So, I can totally identify with the difficulties of being either of them. Superiors have their own limitations and so do subordinates. But come on, having limitations when you are a subordinate is always going to be more difficult than having limitations when you are a superior. Because by the very definition of subordinate, he/she will always be dependent on his/her superior for decision making. The subordinate is always subject to the superior’s dictation and instruction. And that’s why I make it a point to not make my HOs wait without telling them what to expect. When I do think I might arrive late, I whatsapp them beforehand to let them know that I am going to be late and I will tell them what I want them to do in the mean time. Because I believe, it is MY responsibility to tell them what to do when I am not around for the activity that I should be doing with them. It is not their responsibility to have to check with me whether or not I will actually arrive especially when it involves an activity that has been routinely scheduled! When something is routine, there is already a tacit and implied understanding that I should be there. Any failure on my part to arrive to a routinely scheduled activity means that it is automatically my fault if I fail to inform them about it. I do NOT think that superiors have any rights to keep their subordinates waiting any more than it is okay for subordinates to keep their superiors waiting.

Respect is the key point here.

We should respect our subordinates just as we should respect our superiors. We should also respect our patient’s time waiting for us to come and review them! Should we not be available to conduct our professional activity in the clinic or in the ward, it is our obligation to passover the matter to our colleagues of the same rank. If rosters are tight and there is no one else in our own rank we could passover our obligation to, we can tell our subordinates to go ahead and run the activity on our behalves. Of course, it is not ideal but if circumstances cannot be helped and we trust our subordinates to run the activity on our behalves, that must be clearly communicated. It is not okay to let our subordinates to wonder to themselves about what to do and whether or not we will ever arrive and whether or not they should just go ahead and run it themselves. If we want them to start any activity first without us, tell that to them. If we want them to wait for us anyway even though we are going to be late, tell them clearly so that they can apologize to the waiting patients and persuade the patients to wait for our arrival.

It shows respect and decency. You don’t have to be someone’s close friends to respect his or her time. You just have to be an overall decent person.

And that explains why I will not tolerate people who are not punctual. I respect people’s time even when they are not my friends. So, for anyone not to respect my time or other people’s time, well, that is bewildering to me and I will take it personally. 

But I was told that “Afiza, hang kena baik sangka. We are a product of our environment and upbringing. Not everyone was raised to be obsessed about punctuality.”

Okay, I do give people chances to redeem themselves. I will tell them that I am not happy about them not being on time. But if they do it again despite my explicit communication of dissatisfaction (and trust me, most of my communication is explicit anyway), then I no longer have any obligation to ‘baik sangka’. My obligation to clarify the matter is done and whatever ‘sangkaan’ I have about you is accurate from that point onwards.

And that’s that.

***

My staff nurse told me one day “Dr. Afiza jalan laju sangat. Awat kalut sangat ni? Dok ligan apa?”

My colleague replied something like this, “Dr. Afiza hanya jalan lemah-lembut bila dia tengah tak sihat. So kena bagi dia tak sihat selalu kalau nak tengok dia ayu.” I was having URTI at that time and was feeling generally lethargic. So, they were teasing me about my slower walk and how I look more demure when my face was less expressive than usual. Haha.

Yes, I do walk fast. My nickname when I was in high school was Fifi Ferrari. (Created after the like of Maria Mercedes, a popular Mexican soap opera at that time. Haha. I had really creative friends, back then!). It’s because I value my time. I don’t know how people get bored because I always have things to do. Upon waking up, I have to pray, get ready to go to work. From the parking lot, I have to rush to punch in. And then, I have to go to my ward and review my patient. And then, I have to go to my clinic and start my clinic. The routine is already established. There are always THINGS to do that it doesn’t make any sense for people to walk sedately as  though they are aimlessly wondering what is their next task for the day. It always annoys me when I have to slow down my pace whenever the people in front of me are walking slowly. In my mind, I would be like “Ni nak berjalan ke nak jalan-jalan? Ni tempat orang kerja, bukan tempat melancong tengok permandangan nak jalan slow-slow.” Hahha. (Okay, I know this is just my personal pet peeve. Everyone is entitled to their own pace of doing things. If you want to walk slow, that’s your rights to do so. I am just venting out that I couldn’t stand walking behind someone who walk slowly and aimlessly.)

When would I be walking sedately? Well, maybe when I am walking at the beach….or when I am on a holiday and trying to soak in the beautiful scenery of a new place. Yes, I can walk slowly then. Because my PURPOSE at that time is to enjoy my holiday and learn a new culture and absorb the beauty of the new surrounding… and therefore I act accordingly and walk slowly to fit the PURPOSE of my activity.  Another time I would walk slowly is maybe when I am walking with friends who are slower than me. Or when I have just arrived at a new place and not yet sure where places are and need to stop and read the signs to know where I should be heading. But once I am familiar with the place and with the routine in that place, I like to get things done in the day as fast as possible.

At my clinic, my routine is established. From the moment I go out of my car in the parking lot to head to the punch card machine to punch in… until I punch out at 5.00 p.m, I always have things to do. Whether it is to see my patients in the ward, start the clinic, or go for lunch and start the p.m clinic or go for a departmental CME…Why should I dilly-dally, walking sedately and aimlessly when I already KNOW what things to do one after another?  Doesn’t it make more sense to get your task done as quickly as possible and settle everything one by one so that you get to relax as soon as possible?

Again… it’s about time. I cannot even tolerate wasting it by slow walking. That is the reason I always wear pants to work and very rarely do I wear baju kurung. I couldn’t walk fast in baju kurung. Lagi awal aku siap kerja, lagi awal aku boleh study, lagi awal aku boleh relax, lagi awal aku boleh baca buku cerita, get it? Hahha. As simple as that.

So you want to see me relaxed and not kalut? See me while I am reading my fiction or when I am sleeping. I am at my most relaxed then.

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