So I have dance practice today and I’m supposed to leave at 2:30pm. We’re going to a Requiem Mass at 5:30pm about an hour from home but arriving a bit late shouldn’t be a problem.
Congolese are always late.
Dance ends at 4pm so we’ll have more than enough time for the journey.
I’m sitting in my room trying to remember nontangible history dates for my exam when my mom comes in with an apologetic look on her face. She tells me that the host of the mass insists on us being early or at least on time so it’s impossible for me to go to dance practice. She also tells me to cancel with my ride.
And so begun the race to be on time because we refuse to further carry out a cliché on our ethnicity. We are going to be the first Congolese family to be on time at an event.
That’s a bit dramatic, no?
I’m trying to do my make up quickly with a tiny round mirror that can’t stand. My eyes are going in a triangle between the mirror, the clock and my white blouse that I’m afraid to stain. The stress is making me sweat and the fact that I don’t want sweat is amplifying it.
The doorbell rings.
Shit! I forgot to cancel my ride!
We jam out to music and act like we’re in music videos, the usual turn up.
Where y’all at? We out here!
The place is deserted and the only noises we hear are the triumphant shouts and car horns because of the Belgian football team’s latest victory in the EURO 2016.
We’ve been led to our host’s apartment where the mass should have started about 30 minutes ago. The priest hasn’t even arrived yet and only half the guests are here…
The room is boiling hot because of all the bodies crammed up in it but at least the invited people made it before the mass begun
I often hear people say that Congolese are always late. That is a characteristic of our people that we have accepted and often joke about but there is a certain limit that we just don’t draw. This experience left me astonished but also very annoyed and it brought to light something that I’ve always known but have never taken the time to analyze.
Flashbacks of past events where guests arrived shamefully late flooded my head as I thought: ‘Why? Why are we always late?’
Now, I am not in the best position to judge anybody who has issues with time management but there’s a difference between being late and arriving when one pleases. Some people even dared to arrive at 8pm!! 8! I feel like the reason why we are never on time is because we feel like our presence is sacred. We put ourselves on a pedestal and we think that being there is more important than being on time.
I think our lack of punctuality shows our lack of respect.