Thursday, December 13, 2007

If there's no fear, it's not fun

This morning I had an 8 a.m. exam to deliver.

Relevant background:
1. For me 8 a.m. is early. I prefer not even to be awake at that hour.

2. On a good day, my drive to campus is 25 minutes (parking spot to parking spot). 30 is more typical.
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.`

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.


Flavia said...

Since I realize that this post might suggest some disrespect for my students, I'm going to add, as a footnote, that I'm never, ever late for class--even for my morning class, I always leave home with at least an hour to spare, and I always start exactly on time (and I'm obsessive about returning papers within a week or a week and a half, etc.).

The point here is that this was a particularly stressful/idiotic episode precisely because, more than embarrassing myself, I really fear inconveniencing, letting down, or worrying other people.

Renaissance Girl said...

Another thing we all learned in graduate school: literature people don't do mornings. I live about an hour from campus, and I never schedule a class before noon if I can help it. That way, I can sashay out of the house around 10, which satisfies my competing desires to be responsible and irresponsible.

scr said...

I think I'd get fired if I ever had to work a real job. I got to work yesterday at 10:20, at the exact same time as my boss.

This morning a coworker called me at a quarter to 9 to ask me to do something for him if I was near a computer, and the first thing he did was ask me if I was awake.

You are blessed with good traffic, though, my first thought was that the traffic at that earlier hour would have slowed you up severely.

Dance said...

Flavia, I am shocked at your behavior. *I* would have been out the house at 6:30am, just to make sure I was there on time.

*And* to make sure that I had time to photocopy the exam which I would have *just* finished writing.

The extra half hour is to prevent anyone from seeing me at the copy machine.

Incidentally, do you have to sit in the exam the whole time? I've totally wandered out of exams to go get coffee.

Anonymous said...

that is quite an impressive feat, arriving exactly on time after going through a drive through. i'm so glad i'm not the only non-morning person. i think getting to work by 11 is fine. and at 10 being early.

life_of_a_fool said...

I love the people commenting (and you, Flavia). I feel like I am among my late rising people.

Bardiac said...

Gah! To get parking during the term anywhere near my office, I have to be in the lot by 8am. Otherwise, a walk involving a bridge over frozen water. I hate mornings!

Flavia said...

Bro: yeah, I'm really spoiled by the traffic around these parts--there is a rush hour, but it's pretty limited in duration, and mine's a reverse commute anyway. If the only issue were the other cars on the road (and not, say, the speed limit), I could easily go 80mph for more than half of my commute.

And as for scheduling: since I started at RU I've always begun my teaching shortly before 10 a.m. . . but next term my first class meets at 11.30. AND all my classes are in the same building--which is also the same building my office is in (not to mention the nicest building on campus). AND I continue to have that sweet T/Th schedule.

This adds up to the most amazing schedule I can imagine. It's SO amazing, in fact, that I'm probably destined to wind up with a crap bunch of students or wake up every T/Th to white-out driving conditions.

What Now? said...

Oh my gosh, my heart rate went up just reading your post!

I'm also not a morning person, and I'm regularly almost but not quite late to things, but I never pull this off without getting incredibly stressed out. And yet I keep doing it, so there must be something that I subconsciously enjoy about flirting with danger this way.

RageyOne said...

Good that you made it on time! :) I bet your students didn't even notice the difference. :)