Last-Minute Nation

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A wise man once said, give one hour to a human being to do a task that takes five minutes, and he will wait until the last five minutes to start on the task. Procrastination: the act of putting off to a future time. Procrastination: the thief of time. Everybody has put off doing something at one point in their lives. Everybody does it, no big deal, right?
 
Wrong.
 
It becomes a big deal when dawdling grows to be the only way to handle anything. It becomes a big deal when waiting until the last possible minute turns into the culture of a nation, and missing deadlines is the method of choice in dealing with life. It becomes a big deal when you do not respect, or appreciate, the importance of timeliness; and it turns into a disaster when dragging your feet results in you losing sense of time altogether.
 
How, you ask. Here is how.             
 
When you are under the gun, and you need to get something done, NOW, you become very edgy, irritable and more prone to anger. Subconsciously you are thinking to yourself that there is no room for error, there is no extra time to repeat anything; it has to be done right the first time. You allow for nothing to stand in your way; you are as tight as a drum. This is prime weather for hefty clashes. So, for example, this is why during Ramadan, the streets are overflowing with people fighting; and not just any kind of fighting, I am talking bloodhound, I-see-red type of fighting. It is because they are all rushing to get home in time for Iftar. They have no tolerance for anything or anyone; they are blinded to anything but their need to get home right away in time to eat.
 
If it is not the crazy fighting, then it is the blood curdling car accidents. I take the ring road for my drive home from work, and almost everyday during Ramadan, I see the remains of at least one really horrendous accident. More often than not they are the outcome of people losing control of their vehicles as a result of excess speeding, because they are trying to reach their destination and are running very late.
 
I ask you, did Maghreb (dusk) prayer time creep up on these people and take them by surprise? It has always been there! Same time as ever (save for the slight Earth movement of course, for the nitpickers out there).
 
Then there is the aggravating example of eleventh hour madness that takes hold of Cairo during the two days before Ramadan, and the last two days of Ramadan. Suddenly the cars are three tiers in the streets, people are packed like sardines in shops, and the city is smothered in total chaos. Everyone is scuttling around trying to do last minute shopping for absolutely everything, not just little bits and pieces.
 
Tardiness is not exclusive to Ramadan of course, it is just magnified during that month because of the strict, unwavering deadline, linked to what probably all Egyptians value more than their own lives: food!
 
Dragging your feet and dallying run wild and free in the world of business as well. How many of you have to contend with circumstances such as the following: There is a major occurrence coming up, be it a report due, a project launch, or a marketing campaign, etc. The date of this occurrence is not a surprise to any of the people involved, you have even talked about it once or twice, yet somehow, all the major work for handling this event seems to always happen at the last possible minute, when it is completely up in the air whether or not you will actually meet the deadline, and it is equally obscure whether or not the deliverables of this project will be up to par with the required standards. In a nutshell, there is now no margin for error, although, you know for a fact that because of all of this hurrying around, nothing but errors will occur! As an added bonus to this scampering around you have no time to think about anything, to get creative; you are on autopilot. You become ‘7afez mesh fahem’. That is certainly no way to do business, or anything else for that matter.
 
Why does that keep happening? Why are we constantly rushing home, praying that we reach there in time for Iftar, and we always end up getting caught up in the same gridlock because everybody else is rushing as well, because they too are running very late? Why are we constantly scurrying around like mice, trying to meet a work deadline, and we are so stressed that ulcers are not far behind? Why are we constantly working under Emergency law? Sure, pressure is good for you; it gets the blood pumping and makes you feel alive. You feel empowered when you face pressure and persevere. But…you can do it once, you can do it twice, but you cannot keep doing it your entire life!! (Oh but wait, that is what the government has been doing for years now. Enough said).
 
People, I am sad to say, we have turned into a last-minute nation.
 
We leave everything till the last possible minute. We extend deadlines. We do things in double time, at least. We can no longer measure time correctly. The list goes on, but the gist of it is that time does not factor into our daily lives, the results of which are too great for me to discuss all at once in this article.
 
Don Marquis, American journalist and humorist (1878–1937), once said “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday”. Maybe that would explain a lot about the shameful state we have reached as a people. Maybe that is why we constantly say, we were the pharaohs, we built the pyramids, we erected the great dam, but we never say things like we are building so and so, we are working on such and such, we have managed to accomplish the following. Sad really.
 
We can do much better than what we are doing right now.
 
Just so that we are clear, I am talking about the chronically late, not the once-every-blue-moon ones.
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