1. For me 8 a.m. is early. I prefer not even to be awake at that hour.I got up with plenty of time to spare, but somehow didn't make it out the door until 7.25, and it was 7.27 by the time I got in my car. That was less time than I really felt comfortable with, but. . . no sweat. I'd already promised my students up to 30 extra minutes, so in the unlikely event that I was slightly late, they'd still be in good shape.`
2. On a good day, my drive to campus is 25 minutes (parking spot to parking spot). 30 is more typical.
Of course. . . I wasn't entirely sure about the parking situation at the building I was heading to. But it was exam week. It'd be totally fine!
As I started backing my car out, I thought: coffee. I knew there was no concession in Exam Building. And I definitely needed coffee.
So I took another look at the clock on my dash, thought about it for 5 seconds, and then abruptly turned and drove two miles in the wrong direction to the nearest Dunkin Donuts. It was still early, right? And I could just go through the drive-through. And it was right next to the freeway.
Of course, I got stuck in a hideous line (two cars came in immediately behind me, so I couldn't back out) and lost five or six minutes.
Shit. I thought. I could really and totally be ten minutes late to deliver my own exam. And what if there was an accident? Or if I got stuck behind a slow construction truck?
I drove like all hell, stressed out, but also half enjoying myself. What a mess! What a challenge! What fun!
I made it to Exam Building at 7.59 (32 minutes, dudes, including the extra five miles and the time spent waiting for coffee), found a spot immediately in front of the building, and walked into my classroom at exactly 8.00.
Later in the day I started to tell this story to one of my colleagues, half shamefaced, half triumphant--but he interrupted almost before I'd begun.
"Wait," he said. "You left your house at 7.27 for an 8 a.m. exam? I think that tells me something about you."
"What?" I said.
"That you like living dangerously."
The funny thing is that this is the kind of thing I never used to do--I used to be obsessively early for everything, and I still get incredibly anxious when I'm running late or when I feel unprepared--but (as I wrote a couple of months ago) I think I must actually thrive on such pressure, or else I wouldn't court catastrophe so continually.
Because really: anyone who's made it through grad school must have decided, at least on a subconscious level, that living in the constant fear of failure is pretty damn fun.