I had the weirdest experience recently. I finished a meeting and had to be across town for another meeting right on the heels of my first meeting, only the first meeting finished early, so I got to my second meeting early. I’m rarely early. Actually, I’d give it about a 50% chance I’ll even be more or less on time to anything.
I have plenty of redeeming qualities. I can stick to a tight budget. I am probably the World’s Best at Parallel Parking (seriously, I should have a mug made with that). I talk to dogs. I cover my face when I sneeze. I stay hydrated.
I am also chronically tardy. Sometimes it’s only seconds late, sometimes a teensy bit more.
But not this time. This time I was maybe 15 minutes early, which kinda felt like I could fit another whole meeting in there. I thought I could use that time to check email, or else say hi to another friend in that office.
I took my stuff to the conference room, where any plans I had were thwarted when I was waylaid by members of the group I was set to be meeting with – in the future, mind you – who were also early.
This is where it got weird. I had the chance to witness first-hand what early people do with all the time they have when they show up early. This was a rare and valuable opportunity to witness another species in its natural habitat.
Ultimately it was really disturbing.
I mean, you guys, this is what they do: they freaking talk about being early. They revel in it. It’s weird.
“If you’re five minutes early, you’re already ten minutes late.”
That’s a real quote from some dude.* That’s what you learn when you spend time with early people. I don’t even know who the dude was. We would not have been friends.
Like I said, these people reveled in their earliness. They rolled around in it and rubbed it all over themselves like Ann Margaret in a pool of beans. They nodded at each other with smug smiles on their faces. They had no idea I was an interloper.
This is what you get for being early? Smugness? Visions of Ann Margaret? No thank you.
You don’t see tardy people being all smug. No. What we do is hope to God we can slip in a back door and take a seat quietly without anyone noticing. We’re all like: “oh, you keep going, I’ll catch up. So sorry!”
So, here we were, where everyone’s sharing stories about being early and I’m nodding and smiling and giving copious thumbs-up like they’re all my peeps and stuff, and then a little later (as we approached the actual top of the hour when the event was scheduled to start), this conversation happened:
“I know he’s in the building, did you text him?”
“He’s probably down the hall talking to Sam in accounting, someone want to go get him?”
Brian came in just then. Just as the seconds ticked off to the actual start time and everyone looked at him and at each other, and I think someone sighed.
Poor Brian. I wanted to raise my hand to him in solidarity like we were both tributes or something. But Brian just sat down and opened his file, completely unaware that he had missed a chance to spend fifteen minutes of his life talking about how superior we all are to schmucks like him.
We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: I’m not late not because I’m an asshole, I’m late because I’m an optimist. Science, which rarely has my back, has got me on this. There’s an actual part of my brain that has me convinced I have some sort of latent superpower to fold space when I have to be somewhere, or else I’m just pretty sure there will be nothing but green lights and low traffic between me and any destination point. This is so I can squeeze the last possible good out of every spare minute of every day. That’s frugality, yo.
And yeah, sometimes I don’t estimate properly, but think of it this way: I’m a mom of teenagers. I see them for about 30 seconds in the morning, and if I’m lucky, maybe 40 or 50 minutes at night.
This is what teenagers do for those who don’t know, this is literally how they split their time:
That brown piece of pie? That’s the 5% family time we get from them. Marginally more than they spend putting product in their hair and gazing in the mirror every morning. Not to be squandered.
So, you know, maybe I’m late because I’m driving some adolescent somewhere, or they’re having an existential crisis, or they can’t find their pants. I might be late to 4 or 5 meetings a week. Maybe that’s less than an hour combined, give or take. So? You want me to be fifteen minutes early to a meeting, to give up a portion of the 5% of my kids’ time they may want with me so I can talk about how great it is to be early? That is not healthy behavior, you guys.
You know who is pretty much always early to meetings? Stabby people. And they are a constant threat to folks like Brian and me, simply because we are potentially eeking out just one last minute with our children (of course, in my case, I could be scraping dried chocolate off my pants contemplating why Firefly was canceled after only one season. I don’t know. The point is you shouldn’t judge). Stabby people have a higher than average chance of becoming axe murderers, who, if they’re not spending their free time with other stabby people talking about how freaking awesome it is to be early, are spending that time thinking about stabbing people. It’s a more-or-less well-known fact that I just made up right now that most serial killers are – you guessed it – early. You ever heard of an axe murderer being late? No. Because if they were the last one to the party, everyone would see them come in the door with an axe and be like “dammit Shawn, you were supposed to bring the tortilla chips, not the axe,” and then someone would hand Shawn a beer and take his coat and probably the axe and tell him to have a seat and enjoy himself, and honestly nobody is quite as stabby after someone hands him a beer and takes his coat.
Anyway, the moral of this story is, you all should probably just be really thankful I’m never early and I rarely carry anything sharp with me. You’re welcome.
* Yes, I know it’s Vince Lombardi. He’s not my bud.