I’m not an especially early riser and rare is the occasion when I’ve turned on the lights at the newspaper office. But if you invite me to give a program, I’ll probably get there early.
It’s not a point of pride – there’s nothing to be proud of here – it’s just how it is. It has more to do with fear. Often I set out alone into the countryside or onto the interstate headed toward my carefully GPS’ed destination. I probably have never been to or at least noticed the place before, and so if getting there an hour early is on the safe side, two hours are even safer.
What I like is get to the church, banquet hall, or library, breathe a sigh of relief, park the car somewhere discreet ... and chill. All the better if no one is around to speculate that “the speaker” has arrived.
I may kick off my shoes, get as cozy as can be, slide back my seat, unpack a Bible-study lesson I’m working on, a book I’m reading, or maybe pay some bills, call a friend or the husband, clean out my purse, update my planner, listen to music or a podcast.
The point is that no time is wasted; it is cherished. I’m happy as a clam, savoring the experience of being where I need to be early and looking forward to the evening ahead.
The problem is, sometimes I get caught in the act of early.
A while back, I was scheduled to attend a book club’s discussion. The meeting was mid-afternoon on a Saturday in a town 70 miles from home at a residence where I knew no one, not even the woman who invited me.
My plan was to find it, do a drive by, then scope out a nice parking lot somewhere and take it easy for a couple hours. With a tote bag filled with projects to work on, around noon I found the address and slowly drove by the correct street number.
Wouldn’t you know it! The hostess chose that moment to do some yard work on a frosty spring day. She looked up just as I passed and started waving and motioning for me to stop!
Rats! I was caught!
She insisted that I come inside. I told her that truly, I had no intention of doing that, and gave her my story about how I like to find my destination early. I don’t think she even listened, because she would hear nothing of the idea of me waiting it out elsewhere.
So inside I went and although I’m sure she had tons of things to do to get her home and herself ready for company, instead we sat and chatted. What a gracious hostess! I wonder if she dislikes me for the bother.
But really, I would have been more comfortable showing up when I was supposed to have. The last thing I wanted to do was mess up her day. People simply don't believe me when I tell them that chill-time is part of the plan.
Last spring I traveled to a country church in Ohio for a mother-daughter banquet. It was a gorgeous day, the kind you dream about all winter long. I was maybe an hour early and thought I’d hide in plain sight in the parking lot and enjoy the warm breeze. Surely no one would notice me as there were other cars around. Besides, only the person inviting me would recognize me, and even that was a maybe.
But no, I was found out and quickly at that. I begged off coming inside, but it wasn’t long before another person pegged me as the speaker. I suspected that I might be the subject of talk in the kitchen about why I refused to go inside. So I did.
Last night I spoke to two chapters of a teachers’ sorority in Indy. It was a dinner meeting, which meant I’d be navigating rush-hour traffic through the heart of Madison, Hamilton and Marion counties.
This could mean I’d get there faster crawling on my hands and knees. So I left early. Really early.
An hour and a half before the event was to start, I got a text from the hostess, reminding me about the evening in case I had forgotten, and that it started at 6.
“Looking forward to seeing you and everyone!” I texted back.
I didn’t tell her I was already there.