The little detours

(The French version of this text has first been published in issue 6 of the literary review Torticolis.)

I like the little detours. Those who allow me to arrive just in time. Not early. Not late. Just in time.

Like everyone else, I learned as a child that “punctuality is the politeness of kings”. I preferred this politeness to the quarter of an hour of the same name, and made it a point of honor to arrive in advance at any appointment, any invitation. Taking into account the possible vagaries of the journey, the need to find a place to park if I had my own means of transport, and maybe even some time-consuming imponderable, I always added a comfortable time cushion when planning my trips. I did not mind waiting in a hall, in front of a door, or near a sports field. A book, the observation of the surroundings and its inhabitants, watching the clouds go by, or a little introspection were enough for me. The wait had never bothered me too much.

And then I had to go to this summoning, in a place a little far from home. As usual, I arrived well in advance, and I was parked on a seat at the reception; stuck between the front door and the windows protecting the receptionists. In this place, there are mainly two types of people; those who wear a uniform – or at least a prominent colorful badge – and those who do not. Members of the second type do not like the eyes of those from the first type, or even the eyes of other members of their tribe. Having no uniform, this person is naked, whatever the nature and thickness of their clothing. A little later, I had to repeat the experience, in another context, where the attributes of the first type are wig and black dress. I now have to regularly attend meetings where “before the hour is not the time yet, and after the hour is not the time anymore”, presenting to the too foresighted person the prospect of a closed door, and a wait shared in a heavy silence, often exposed to the rest of the world, busy in their occupations of “normal” people. I am also part of an unwanted population, whose lengthy and immobile presence may, depending on the location, attract comments, or worse.

So I make little detours.

That is, I dynamically adapt my journey according to the time I have left before the precise moment of the appointment. The little detour is an art. It requires adapting not only the route but also the speed to get to the right place at the right time. If the journey is motorized, one must try to limit fuel consumption and pollution. If the journey is on foot or by bike, one must try to limit fatigue, but also sweat. Indeed, an essential aspect of the little detour is a nonchalant arrival, looking neither anxious nor in a hurry. If the route is exposed, it is best to limit exposure to cold, wind, or weather. One can for example, use shopping malls and stores with large awnings.
We can use the opportunity to discover new paths, hidden secrets close to an avenue hundred times traveled. But you must avoid going back to the same place twice. People would become suspicious. The little detour then becomes a mathematical exercise, borrowing from the problem of the seven bridges of Könisberg and that of the commercial traveler. It is also better to look determined. The modern person moves from one location to another for a specific reason. If it is not the case, the thing is shady, and social networks begin to buzz.

But more importantly, you have to learn to love small detours, not to see them as a chore, as lost time, and to enjoy them a maximum. Especially when they form an unavoidable part of the rest of your life.

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