Running late is a matter of my integrity

I was late so my dentist cancelled my appointment. Which is a matter of integrity for both them and me.

This story doesn’t go the way you probably think it’s going to. If you run late for appointments, this one’s for you. Unrelated, have you ever heard the definition of integrity as “doing what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it?”

Because my dentist’s office was right to cancel my appointment when I showed up late.

(Can we all just pause and notice how grownup this article is since part of the story involves attending to preventative dental care?)

I had a long-ago scheduled dental cleaning this week and called to give my dentist’s office a heads up when I realized I was going to be late. I checked to if they could still see me because I was going to be at least 15 minutes late. You should know that this is a dental practice where I have never waited more than about 5 minutes for an appointment. They keep their small waiting room moving smoothly.

The office manager said they would still see me, and I headed their way. As it turns out, I was 22 minutes late.

All that to say, when I finally dashed in, I hoped that they could still see me, but felt pretty bad about being as late as I was.

The office manager checked with the dental hygienist and then very kindly told me she was sorry, but they couldn’t accommodate me as I was now well into the next person’s scheduled appointment time.


I mean, part of me knew I had 100% created this problem, but the other part of me wanted to still be seen and was apparently fine with them (and the next patient) bearing the consequences of me being late. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who would’ve wanted this.)

Let’s be honest–this interchange could have gone a couple of ways:

Me: huffing and exasperated that they wouldn’t try to fit me in for an appointment I had made 6 months ago and that would take weeks and weeks to reschedule.


Me: shameful and embarrassed and kinda begging to get squeezed in still.


Me: acknowledging I was late and not making excuses for it and taking on the consequences for it like a grown up.

Oh, I hear ya–that last option sounds a little unlikely to happen in most scenarios (at least from my American perspective).

But here’s the thing–the dental office has a policy they remind me of every time I make an appointment that if patients are more than 10 minutes late, they will have to re-schedule your appointment.

(As an aside, this is in Los Angeles. There is a general culture of lateness. Where being 10 minutes past an appointment time is the norm for most people and businesses. I’m not sure you are actually late until you are at least 15 minutes past the scheduled time. So having a place actually adhere to appointment times is not the norm.)

Here’s the thing–I’m actually glad they did what they said they were going to do and rescheduled my appointment. It makes me feel oddly safe to be clear on where the boundaries are and to know the rules we are operating under.

Does that make sense?

It’s the definition of integrity: Doing what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it.

There’s no judgment assigned to it-it’s not good or bad or right or wrong. Just as I wasn’t good or bad or right or wrong for being late. I just WAS late and there were clear results of that action.

Having clear boundaries and acting with integrity around them lays things clearly out on the table so everyone knows what the agreement is. They said to be on time, I agreed when I made the appointment and then I wasn’t, so there were consequences for me as I broke our agreement.

Being ‘late’ is breaking my word–does that make sense?

Not just here where they created clear expectations and healthy boundaries (dang it), but every time I say I am going to do something or be somewhere by a certain time. (Even not hitting your snooze button is a kind of integrity.)

This whole situation struck me because I know I could have recounted this story and somehow made it about how I was wronged here–what kind of customer service was this? Do they want my business?? (Actually, I don’t know if they do want patients who show up late and then expect other people to manage the mess it created for schedules and other patients…..all signs point to them not wanting those kinds of patients.)

But notice how willing we are to not keep our word and then want other people to take on the fallout of it.

I do this all the time. Eeek.

Up until now.

I want to be a person who can be trusted to keep my word with appointment times. Being on time for appointments is part of my integrity–doing what I say I am going to do, when I say I am going to do it.  And if I don’t keep it, I want to think and act as if I am responsible for the mess, not other people.

Once I started to pay attention, I was surprised at how much I have expected other people to bear the brunt of ME being out of integrity in these situations. Eeek.

Can we just take a moment and celebrate my growth as a human here? I actually did apologize for being late and the impact it had on them, offered to pay the cancellation fee and rescheduled the appointment. I didn’t whine, make excuses or pass off any of the responsibility for it on traffic, etc. I truly do appreciate that this dental office operates with this level of integrity. Even when it’s inconvenient for me.

The new appointment is scheduled in four weeks. And you can bet I’ll be on time.

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