It was about 2 years ago on Nuns’ Island where my office is. I invited one of the important bank directors for lunch at Finesse d’Orient. That was in early April, middle of our busy period-mid January to end of June, as people either have to buy their own houses or continue to live in their old places before 1st of July each year.
The director was in the east of Montreal meeting some of his branch managers for business. He would finish around 12:00 that day. So we agreed to meet at the restaurant at 12 sharp. As usual, in busy season among tons of papers and at the same time answering clients’ calls, it is some what hard to leave my desk. I was late for lunch with him once already, therefore, I told myself to be alert of the time and I seriously prepared myself for the punctuality.
“Driiiiiing, Driiiing!”, my phone rang.
” Allo! Hi, Bob!”, that was him!
” What time is it now? Where are you?”, Bob asked me at the other end of the phone in a tone that sounds not so happy!
I looked at the time. oh, shit, shit shit! It was 12:10!!!! Well, I thought, only 10 minutes late and I was just about 30 seconds to that restaurant, not a big deal!
I answered quickly: ” Sorry for that! I will be there in 2 minutes”.
Yes, the 2 minutes promise became about 10 minutes, putting things away, dressing for outside, answering one call on the way, etc…
When I arrived, it was 12:20. I was ushered to Bob who was sitting there looking at me walking towards him, but motionless. Usually, he would stand up, smiling , hugging and kissing my cheeks, but not this time! O, o! I knew that I was toasted!
I sat down opposite him on the bench and explained with utterance why I was late while in my heart feeling really very awkward knowing very well that punctuality is one of the good qualities of the professionals. I did say sorry many many times…
Despite of my excuses, he said, protesting: ” Christie, you know how long I had been here?”
Yes, I thought, 5 to 12:00! He said in a bit yelling tone: ” No, I had been here 40 minutes waiting for you!”
“How come 40 minutes? Our appointment is at 12:00, it should have been only 20 minutes”! I thought in mind.
” No!” he said, as if he knew what I was thinking. ” I finished early this morning, and I arrived here 20 to 12:00!!”
Well, now I understand why he was so upset and gave me cold face. At the same time I saw a bit of a chance to put this unpleasant event behind us thinking objectively that his upset feeling was because of his early arrival as well. But he wouldn’t listen at all and our table stayed cold. Yes, eh? Waiting alone in a restaurant for 40 minutes! Nobody would be happy anyways!
So how was I going to have the lunch with the unhappy mood of my invited? I could not and neither could he. Well, it was basically my fault right? I was late, not 5, not 10, 20 minutes. I could forgive myself being busy, phone calls, etc, but the lunch is scheduled at 12, then be there at 12! What have other excuses anything to do with the previously scheduled time? I didn’t tell Bob earlier that I would be half an hour late neither? What on earth do I have the right to excuse myself for my own wrong doing and attitude? I should be there at agreed time, period! But I said sorry a few times and he wouldn’t let me go! What should I do enough to make him accept my apology and be happy again so that we can enjoy our lunch?
Then, I said to him looking right into his eyes: ” Bob, I am truly sorry. By being late so much, I didn’t respect your time and I should stick to my word no matter what happens. I promise that this will not happen again!” Yes, this little cold war had been quite long and we had to put an end to it. He must have seen and felt that I was sincere and truly repentant, because when I was saying those words to him, I was holding his right hand with both of my hands, squeezing and shaking at the same time. I was not only holding it with my hands, but holding it with my heart as well asking for his forgiveness.
Then finally, he said: ” okaaaay, that’s okay!” and put on a shy smile. Yes, he is generous and kind enough to forgive me! Feeeew! I released his hand, feeling for myself released and relaxed at last. That was a very long killing 2-3 minutes for me! You know that this was the first time I ever did a thing like that: holding the hand of a man looking attentively right into his eyes, squeezing and shaking, not for the purpose of asking him to marry me, but that of apologizing and asking for his forgiveness!
The lunch after went very well. Because of this drama and the resolution of the crisis, we both felt released of the fear of loosing our relationship and the pressure of how to end this unpleasant event in a good way. We even started joking about this event outside before we departed each other and I felt so happy that we saved our business relationship AND I saved a precious personal friend. Oh, don’t forget that I learned an important lesson for myself as well: A Promise IS A Promise! Even just for things that are as minor as being punctuel for lunch!