Going places

Sometimes in life you do things that really make you feel like you’ve ‘arrived’. A new job with significantly better wages, for example. Or, as recently happened to me, an actual invitation to central London to actually officially do some actual proper work.

Okay, so on this occasion I paid for the invitation, rather than being paid for my work, but it doesn’t diminish that gentle sense, Dick Whittington-like, of ‘having arrived’.

But before I get ahead of myself: In order to ‘have arrived’, one has to actually arrive.

Professional arrival is a fine art, I think it’s widely acknowledged. I’ve been through enough job interviews to realise that the optimum arrival time is T-minus seven minutes.

At T-minus ten, the person who is set to receive you will look at the clock and think, god, what am I going to do with this total stranger for ten minutes? I hate them!

T-minus five looks a bit calculated, a bit neat, and you also run the risk of having to rush in the event of any out-of-order lifts or missing staircases or whatever. No, no. T-minus seven. With all unexpected obstacles negotiated, you can stroll in and commence ‘having arrived’.

So the real art, then, with such a target decided, is arriving at the arrival; how do you make sure you’re seven minutes early?

Here’s the route I was required to take yesterday (travelling from west to east):

That is, 0.08 miles (459 feet) of prime British pavement, taking in Eros, flashing lights, shows, pizzazz, everything that great old town has to offer. Here’s the route I took to ensure arrival at T-minus seven:

An entire mile of British pavement, some prime, some sub-prime.

To be honest, the opening gambit was necessitated by that most obstructive of obstacles: Piccadilly Circus. It’s a confusing place to navigate at the best of times, even without taking into account my policy of refusing to look up like a tourist — which is a bit awkward, as that’s where all the road signs are. When I emerged from the tube station, I took a gamble, and lost: I turned the wrong way.

This wrong eventually righted, I zeroed in on the building I was supposed to be doing my ‘arriving’ at, and identified its discreet double doors. Right. I situated myself at a Pret across the street from those doors, and commenced eating a sandwich and drinking a smoothie, peering suspiciously for any tell-tale signs of anything.

Upon sandwich completion, I departed the Pret and proceeded to a nearby Spar to buy some Polos. Then I walked round the block, stopping off only to check out the back door of the building I was supposed to be doing my ‘arriving’ at. Brief panic that this was in fact the correct entrance, as there was a group of people hanging around outside looking expectant. No, no. Wrong street. Onwards.

I passed the front doors again, but I was still at T-minus twelve, so I continued past them and walked for 2.5 minutes, before turning and walking back for 2.5 minutes. I pushed the doors and walked in, with all possible calm and poise, precisely seven minutes early.

I think it’s fine to conclude from this a general rule: what happens at T-minus eight out is nobody’s business but your own.


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