It’s always a good idea to be slightly late. Being too early guarantees you’ll be sitting at the bar alone, terrified to look anywhere but down at a screen that’s read 8:57 for the last four minutes. Being late ensures you’ll avoid that horrid scenario, but stretching the limits of tardiness is an entirely different demon. Forty-five minutes overdue, and you’re probably as punchable as your peacoat suggests.
Slightly late, you don’t have to deal with either. The happy equilibrium.
Of course, it never quite happens that way. Planning to be punctually tardy is a virtual guarantee that you’ll misplace your phone, get a giant oxygen stain on your shirt, or knock over a cookbook and shatter your roommate’s stupid vase. Calculatedly late trends towards dickwadishly late quite easily, and the next thing you know you’re sprinting 8 blocks just to make it by 9:21. Sucks that you’re gonna walk in all sweaty. Kristen is totally gonna be into that.
In my case, I had to jump in a cab instead of the subway. A brutal move considering it ended up costing almost half my pre-planned nightly budget. But it was a necessary one, because I needed to impress Kyle. He was the only co-worker my age, and it seemed like he’d be one of those people I’d eat at a really nice restaurant with at age 43–when one of us is incredibly successful financially, but the other is way happier career-wise despite sweating at the restaurant’s wine list. (lt’s way too early to determine who is who, so for now we’ll flip a coin).
I was definitely looking forward to that dinner, but in the meantime we had 20 years to fill. And we still hadn’t really hung out yet.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into Kyle’s apartment, but that was par for the course at the time. Three months out of college, you don’t really know what to expect from anything–your job or lack thereof, your recent transition from Keystone Light to Bud Light Platinum, and of course, the fact that you’ve just realized you have about 2% of an idea as to how the world operates. A scary realization, but as Kyle and I realized, one that’ll definitely hold down the fort in terms of having something to talk about. Having no clue is the Hansel of postgraduate life–so hot right now.
A mildly awkward pregame turned into a barely awkward one, which turned into one guy yelling about “the plan.” “The plan,” as it was, was to hit up some bar in some place, that was purportedly cooler than other bars in other places. As the outsider to the pregame, I smartly censored myself from any pointless social commentary. To this bar it was.
The night went as most nights go. Too much money spent for the occasion, drunken antics that weren’t as close to as cool as we thought they were, and random conversations with varied coherence. I specifically recall chatting it up with one dude whilst waiting to order drinks. He was 29, looked perceptively Mumford & Sons-esque, and indicated that he was simply passing the time while his girlfriend socialized with a bunch of people he wasn’t interested in talking to. In a sense, he had checked out. But as I found out, there was something to his detached modesty.
He revealed to be a parody of New York “young success” story. Worked in finance for a few years, hated it, quit for something much more low-key, during which he helped found a social media consultancy that made enough money for him to covertly show me the engagement ring he just bought. He seemed almost bored with his story, but given that I had just moved to the big city equipped with that look of #innocenthunger, he seemed to take interest in my wide-eyed existence.
He proceeded to chat me up, going on a minor rant about how the way America does careers is super messed up, and that the college system makes it impossible for anyone to have a real idea as to what their skills truly are. He concluded by telling me to “fuck around career-wise for the first few years”, but to “channel the fucking around into some sort of direction if you can.” He stressed that “you don’t wanna peak at 24, but you definitely don’t wanna still be fucking around at the big 3-0. ”
I was still pissed about having to take that cab.
“So like you wanna be like, slightly late.”
He looked at me, with that look people have at the moment they lose all respect for someone they thought was cool.
“What the fuck are you talking about dude?”
Hammered, I insisted he get my point.
“You got to life at 7:12. You’re saying not to get there at 6:59, and definitely not get there at 7:46. But instead of being a douche at 7:46, you have to ask your friends for money if you get there at 7:46.”
“You got her that ring cause you got there at 7:12.”
“Alright man, take care.”
A few weeks ago I met up with Kyle. We’re no longer at the same place, but there’s only 19 more years till that dinner. Wonder what time I’ll get there.