Well, there's late and then there's late. Late to Thanksgiving dinner vs late to a plane flight, for instance. Late on a work project that has flaky kinda-sorta deadlines vs late on pulling a parachute ripcord.
I come from a family that was chronically late. We called it being on "Parker time." I have tried, numerous times, to "turn over a new leaf," but have been only partially successful. There are exceptions to the "Parker time" rule, thank goodness. I've been pretty decent about meeting work deadlines over my umpty-ump decades of employment, so I guess there's that. The institution where I spent my career was notorious for meetings that NEVER started on time. I hate being late to meetings, so I was often early, which meant I was often the first person in the room. I managed to meet my recent fiction-book deadlines (although I am awfully glad this was a leap year so I could make my "turn in the draft in February" deadline).
Hmmm. Come to think of it, both of my children arrived well after their due dates, so it seems that "Parker time" must run in the blood.
But catching planes, that's a different story. As far as flights go, if I'm not there at the airport a good couple of hours ahead of time, it's stress-out-city for me... Whereas my dear friends are forgiving of my always being late, there's no wiggle room with flights (unless a flight is delayed, but that's a different story). In these cases, "late" doesn't cut it, and it might as well be "never."
Who said "better late than never" anyway? Okay, now I'm wondering, so off I go, checking the internet for insights... Well, what do you know, according to The Phrase Finder, it appeared in Canterbury Tales!
"... Geoffery Chaucer appears to have been the first person to have put the proverb into print, in The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale, Canterbury Tales, circa 1386: For bet than never is late. [Better than never is late.]"
Looking around a little further, I find that, according to Wikitionary, the phrase even pre-dates Chaucer:
"... Perhaps a calque of the Latin phrase potiusque sero quam numquam from the 4th book of Ab Urbe condita (History of Rome) by Titus Livius, around 27 BC."
So, there you go. Next time I'm late, I'll turn back the clock to 27 BC and quote a little Latin, although it won't negate the fact that I am overly tardy. And quoting Latin sure won't stop JetBlue from closing their doors in my face...