After 40 years of being early to virtually everything in my life I finally figured out why I do it. Or maybe more like how than why.
I drove out to drop off stage one of my document treasure hunt to my accountants office. I allowed myself 2.5 hours for the trip. Is my accountant in Albany? No. Colchester, but it often feels as far, particularly because it is not a route I travel regularly so I have to navigate on the fly. With this I can not be trusted. So I found the long way there, over ice and snow and arrived in the parking lot 20 minutes after leaving my house. So I spent about five minutes finishing the call I was on and then about five minutes dropping off the folder. I didn’t have an appointment, but I had to run it up the stairs to the desk manager.
Getting back into my car I realized I had a full two hours before my lunch date with Steve (and Lara) and so I decided to squeeze in a good will run. The good will was about 30 minutes from the accountants office, but only 10 minutes from lunch so it would probably work out. I’d need to get going right now to be certain though.
Our good will (probably like most of these impossibly huge brand new buildings that are sprouting up in every suburban area) has a drive up port a cochere kind of thing. Generally I hop out, grab a blue rolly basket and unload the clothes, kitchen wares and books into it. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes. Today, however, the assistant on duty was quite adamant that customers were not allowed in the back to get the rolly thing so I stood bedside my open lift gate and waited while he helped the gentleman in front of me determine whether or not he needed a receipt. This can be a detailed and time consuming conversation and in fact it was. I was able to be patient though, I had plenty of time to get to lunch.
After 5 minutes of talking the loader inner came to me and took a look at my offerings. I had them packed pretty well (Steve did some of the packing I will admit) into those reusable clear plastic bins. With the move coming up I wanted to donate the bin contents but not the bins themselves. As I explained this I reminded him that this was where those blue rolly things work so well. “We don’t have any” he told me. This was totally possible as they are often used to sort things “in the back.” Good thing I had planned for this possibility when I calculated whether or not I could fit a good will run into two hours. So, he strategized, he would need to carry each bin into the back, sort them, and return them. It might take a few minutes/bin. I gave him an estimate of 5 minutes x 4 bins + the 2 bags…30 minutes or so. After 15 minutes of cheerleading him I decided to wait in the drivers seat. It felt a little funny not helping him haul the stuff, but customers are not allowed in the back and it was 5 degrees out. So I sat in the drivers seat and played with my phone Five minutes later I looked up to see the guy with the final empty plastic bin on his head, walking in circles in front of the car. This seemed odd. I didn’t quite know what question to ask so instead I walked to the back of the van where the two full bags sat next to the 3 empty bins and wondered aloud if he could carry them both at once. “Of course.” He answered.
When his job was done I thanked him, eager to hit the road.
Now I only had 55 minutes until lunch. And it was almost a full 10 minutes away. No more time for dilly dallying. Its as if all of life is at an enormous airport, with unexpected security lines and weird transport vehicles that you cant always board right away, we all know to allow plenty of time to get to our gates. At the real airport I rush ahead, no shopping for magazines, or peeing, or getting the better coffee in the main terminal. Once I am at the gate I can read, make a list, crush some candy. But until then I need to be moving forward, not just at the airport, but everywhere I am going. This is not news. This drive to travel first and live once I get there made some sense before cell phones. Now it is just a crazy making vestige of a time when a planned meeting was set in stone. So with 55 minutes, with 10 minutes of travel time left until lunch I want to get the travel time behind me…then if I get 4 flat tires or have to exit my car to make some sort of heroic rescue, or slip into some breach of the space time continuum no one will have to miss a bite of lunch.
This time the trip just took 10 minutes. When I pulled into a parking space directly in front of Flatbread without even having to circle the entire 45 minutes were preserved. So I checked my email, sent a few thumbtyped replies, posted about the house sale on front porch forum, tried to dig up a receipt for a rental expense to forward to the accountant, read through the facebook timeline, scanned the twitter btv hashtag. Then looked at the clock. 25 minutes left. I had to almost hold myself down from leaving the car. The flatbread door remains firmly locked until 11:30. Trust me, I have checked. It was still 5 degrees out, I only had 3 quarters for the meter, and I REALLY didn’t want to spend any money downtown. So I rechecked facebook, crushed some candy, approved some comments, replied to some comments. And checked the clock. 10 minutes left. I crawled into the back of the car to make space for the painting I would be picking up after lunch, peeling bits of stickers, and chewed up fruit leather and even a few red grapes off of the van floor. I tried to finger vacuum up the cheetos and cheese bits. I almost got caught between the kids seats. Just lodged in there, and I was pretty panicked because I MIGHT BE LATE. After all of that there was 5 minutes left.
I pretty much leapt out of the car. Dragging myself with my floppy coat and large bag between two salty cars I left strange streaks on the cars, and matching salt blemishes on the bag and me. I climbed the 3 foot snow drift like it was my called and put the 3 quarters in the meter in smooth succession. Remember, I could have dropped them and added time to the journey across the street. But I didnt drop them and there were no cars to hold me up and I crossed the street and looked at my watch. 11:26.
Thats when I realized what has been going on since I was old enough to estimate time and be in control of my schedule. I am incapable of rounding down below 5 minutes. It is simply my smallest unit. Walk across street…5 minutes. Hand the guy at Goodwill the bag…5 minutes. Hand the woman at the desk a folder….5 minutes. Wait at a cross light…5 minutes. Zip my coat….5 minutes. In a long enough string of events estimating 30 second transactions at 5 minutes is going to make you pretty damn early.
If you don’t believe me you should look at my worms.