I’m one of those people who’d rather be early than late, but I suppose most of us would. I pride myself in never having missed a deadline with my writing. This spills over into my dad-to-day tasks, too. Whenever I have an appointment, I usually try to leave extra early, giving myself plenty of time. I figure out how long the trip should take, and double it to give myself the luxury of not having to rush. That said, sometimes unforeseen circumstances can spring up at the most inopportune times.
In other words, things don’t always go as planned. On the day I was set to begin my brief stint in the administration section of the police department, I was told to report in on Monday morning at eight AM sharp. I’d left extra early because of construction on the expressway, and was taking the side streets when I heard that fatal flapping sound: a flat tire. Just what I needed on the way into work, especially on the first day of a new assignment. Besides not being dressed for the occasion (I was wearing a sport jacket and tie), the flat occurred just as I was driving through a particularly bad neighborhood. I managed to find an empty parking lot and pulled into it. Luckily, I’d worked at a tire store in my youth and had mastered the art of changing a tire with aplomb. The early hour helped me out as far as the “hood concerns,” too. Most of the troublemakers were just getting to sleep for the night at that time in the morning. When I walked in about fifteen minutes late, sweaty and soiled, everyone was both shocked and relieved. “We all knew something bad had happened,” the Records Supervisor said. “You’re never late.”
I can remember another time something unforeseen happened when I’d given myself that additional margin of time. I was heading to unfamiliar territory: testifying in court in an adjacent county. I’d never been to that courthouse before, and I gave myself some extra minutes. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying the drive when I saw a car pulled over on the shoulder and this woman frantically pacing back and forth talking on her cell phone. As I went past, I saw she had a flat tire. I was in uniform, but in my own car, so I had my trusty, four-cornered tire-iron in the back of my Jeep. I immediately pulled over and backed up to the lady’s car. I managed to change her tire in record speed, stressing that she should watch because this was something she should learn how to do. As it turned out, she was a court reporter and led me to a short cut to get to the courthouse. I arrived just in the nick of time, but had to explain my very filthy looking hands to the State’s Attorney. I should have put some gloves in the back with the tire-iron.
This extra time margin has also served me well during the times I’ve stopped to rescue animals meandering on the roadway. The mating season for many species is in the spring and numerous times I’ve stopped to shoo turtles, geese, mama ducks leading tiny ducklings, and even snakes off the highways.
Not everybody is concerned with being sagacious. I can remember one of my army buddies saying that he seldom worried about tardiness, but not because he left early. “I get there when I get there,” he used to say. If the trip took longer than he’d anticipated and he realized he wasn’t going to make it on time, he still wouldn’t rush. “I figured I was already late,” he said, “so why bother rushing and maybe risk not getting there at all?” But perhaps he was just trying to affect his personification of “cool.” I can’t remember him ever being late for our pre-duty inspections and roll calls.
I guess it depends on your point of view as to which philosophy is the best, but I still think early is better. I think it’s the way I’m wired.