ETA: Early

When on time is too late

By Deborah Salomon

Why am I always early?

My mother used to say, “If Deb is late don’t call the police . . . call the undertaker.”

I cannot ever remember missing a deadline or a flight except when the plane I’m on is delayed and I miss the connection. Then my tummy does more somersaults than an Olympic gymnast. I pay bills the day they arrive. My taxes are done a month in advance but I mail the checks in April because I don’t like how the government spends my money.

That’s me, sitting in the car outside an office or house, not wanting to arrive for an appointment ahead of time.

Exception: the dentist. I get there early on purpose because they have great magazines.

I purposely overestimate travel time, especially rush hour at the Pinehurst Traffic Circle, where a five-minute wait amid lovely scenery turns people who have never dealt with Boston, New York, Charlotte or Atlanta into whiners.

This is not something I’m pleased about — nor do I seek a cure. But, since nothing comes from nothing, before the fat lady sings I might investigate.

Blame my name. Deborah, in Hebrew, means bee. Bees are characterized as busy. You don’t see bees sleeping late, making (up) excuses or procrastinating.

Sleeping late? People frequently reply that my computer clock is off when emails arrive with a 4:45 a.m. time stamp. Lucky-the-cat is only partly responsible. The habit of early rising began in middle school. My father traveled for business, weeks at a time, and my mother had vague health issues which kept her abed until at least 8. Fine with me. I enjoyed studying for a test in the dark and quiet, ironing a blouse, eating whatever I pleased for breakfast while watching the new Today show. By 8:15 I was waiting on the corner for my ride. The only problem — super-early risers want lunch at 10 a.m.

This carried over to college, much to my roommate’s dismay. We parted after a semester, but the habit continued to motherhood, when that witching pre-dawn hour was spent drinking coffee, folding laundry, skimming the newspaper, even cooking.

“Why do I smell onions at 7 a.m.?” my son would ask.

As a full-time reporter I ran 3 miles, stopped at the supermarket, baked a coffeecake or muffins and still got to work before 9.  When I visit my grandsons in Canada the return flight leaves at 6 a.m., which means getting to the airport at 4 a.m., which means leaving the apartment at 3:30 a.m., which means getting up to shower and eat breakfast at 2:30 a.m., which means going to bed at 8 p.m. Wary of alarm clocks, I wake every 20 minutes or so to check the time.

I respectfully disbelieve in astrology, but learned that Capricorns “like to plan and rehearse everything in advance.” Hmm.

This chronic earlybirditis has not waned with age, except now I indulge in an afternoon nap.

So far, nothing adequately explains the pathology. There’s no such thing as being “fashionably early” either, although I read that fashionably late people are insecure. Or the opposite. Marilyn Monroe used to keep film crews waiting for hours. The Clintons, chronically behind schedule, joke about it.

Not that any of this really matters, except for one disaster. I was invited to a dinner party by a very chi-chi hostess. The invitation said 7 p.m. I drove up 10 minutes early but sat outside pretending to talk on my phone. When I rang the bell at seven sharp she came bustling to the door, hair in giant rollers, smoke billowing from her ears.

“A bit early, aren’t you, dear?”

“You said 7,” I murmured.

“That means 7:30,” she hissed.

The last guest arrived around 8.

Needless to say, I never got invited back.

Surely there are worse things than not being first in line for hot theater tickets. Or missing a flight. Or showing up late for a job interview. Or arriving with a crucial deposit after the bank closes.

I wouldn’t know. I’m that bird up front, feasting on the worm.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot.
She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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