I tend to be a man in a hurry.
That’s when I feel on fire, when I get a lot of stuff done, when I get that accomplishment high that I crave so badly.
It’s also when I make mistakes.
New York is a pretty easy city to navigate, but it also offers many opportunities to get lost.
Coming up out of the subway and being turned around is my most common way of getting lost. Without a horizon, or direct sunlight, especially in winter – or at night – it is easy to get my orientation wrong.
But what really compounds my mistake is being late, aka, being in a hurry. Not allowing enough time. I’m cutting it close, every second matters now, so I rush off in the direction I think is west, without really figuring it out, and suddenly, I’m further from my destination, and later, and more stressed out.
All in the name of using every minute efficiently.
My teacher Maria Nemeth long ago introduced me to the concept of “clarity, focus, ease and grace.” I need and strive for all four, in many different aspects of my life, but when it comes to making an appointment, it’s all about the latter two qualities.
She is the one who suggested that I try to arrive at an appointment EARLY, which to my mind, which wants to maximize my time and cut everything as close as to the bone itself, sounds like heresy. Madness! Arrive early?? What will I do with those ten minutes? This way lies not madness, but boredom. And that’s even worse than madness, right?
But I know she’s right. I’ve practiced this on occasion, and I didn’t die of boredom. Besides, I have an iPhone, right?
Still, for whatever reason, I find that I’m always trying to squeeze one more chore, one more email, one more blog post, or a little more food, into the last few minutes before I need to leave. And in New York, that doesn’t work as well as it did in Sacramento. In Sacramento, I knew the town so well, I could cut it close daily, and it almost always worked.
In New York, I’m still a bit hazy on distances. It’s a big town that seems deceptively small. It’s so easy to get around that I assume I can just zoom. I never make those assumptions about LA, for instance. I always assume it’s going to take me a long, long time. And it usually does.
Still, as I said, I’ve been operating this way for a long time, and I tend to be lucky, and so it often works. Well, it “works” in the sense that I almost always get there on time. But my stress levels are higher. Can anyone say adrenaline junkie?
In New York, cutting it close isn’t just a sure source of an adrenaline high, desired or not; it is also a sure way to be late. Because New York, though efficient, is by no means perfect, and one late train, one misdirection, one too many people in your way on the side walk, and you’re late.
And late can cost you. As in, dollars.
I got my comeuppance the other night, when I tried to do one too many things, jam one too many stops into one trip downtown, and ended up missing the late seating to a show I was looking forward to seeing. The show was in Brooklyn, DUMBO, and I just assumed I could make it. I’d even invited two friends to meet me, and they got there on time, and held me a seat, and…I got there late.
Too late. I was tearing down the stairs at the West Fourth Street station, the F train ten steps away as its doors closed and it left the station. Ten minutes on the platform, waiting for the next F.
Too late, ss in the woman at the door saying to me, as I walked up 15 minutes late, “Do you hear that music? That was the end of the late seating window.” And the rest of the show’s run was sold out. And so I was out $33. And my friends and I didn’t get to watch the show together, and talk about it together afterwards.
Stress costs me in these situations, but losing actual money is a good way to underline the loss for me. A very concrete loss.
So…yet another goal for this year: Get on top of this inclination to always cut it as close as possible. It can actually take money out of my wallet.
But really, it is in the deeper ways that it’s really costing me; money is just money. Stress and adrenaline-surfing can take time off your life. And wouldn’t it be ironic to shorten my actual lifespan by trying to make sure I time every minute perfectly?