tout à l’heure

by jemma margaret

Bad spoken jokes become even worse when transcribed. Case in point:

“Want to know the secret to good comedy?”

“Sure what’s the sec–”

“Timing!”

Now that we’re all rotfl (rofl?…I clearly don’t receive enough text messages from teenagers.), let me tell you about last night’s party.

To preface, when I lived in Brooklyn and spent time with people with degrees in art, hardly anyone was ever prompt. So I learned to always arrive 10 to 20 minutes after the event’s scheduled hour (this goes for casual things, I am almost always early for appointments). Even with this planned latitude, I often surprised my host and ended up helping with last minute kitchen prep or engaged in awkward conversation. I even had a friend who would give different subsets of her friends different start hours so that everyone would get there at more or less the same time.

All this changed dramatically in Vancouver, not (I think) because of Canadians, but rather because of mathematicians. If a party started at 9 people would be there between 9 and 9:05. I even heard rumors about a certain guest who often came early!

In Paris so far, it appeared that the mathematical community here is still relatively prompt. Sticking to my practice of 10 to 20 minutes late seems to safely make me neither the first nor the last arrival. Foolishly, I extrapolated from the French mathematicians to the general population. Thus it was that I entered my friend’s sixth floor apartment at 20h10 last night somewhat drenched and decidedly “began” the party.

The next guest came 30 minutes later.

The following guest came 1 hour after that.

And the rest of the party more or less arrived between 22h15 and 23h30 (after which several recent arrivals left to get more beer).

To make up for my original error, I decided to also be the first to leave (actually I was exhausted).

However, I am not the only person in this city to suffer from problems of timing. At the all day Lagrange conference this past Friday, almost every speaker interpreted the phrase “you are out of time” to mean “you are free to continue for ten more minutes”. One individual eventually had to be interrupted with competing microphones. I think that’s more embarrassing than preparing canapés at 20h30.

Unfortunately, I do not seem to have learned from my mistake, committing today an even more grievous fault with respect to not minutes but months. Seeing now two varieties of cherries (Spanish and Italian) at the market this morning, I went ahead and bought 300 grams of the cheaper one (you can guess which that would be). They look like cherries, but they taste like what war is good for.

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