The precrastinator

Whether it’s arriving at Logan, filing a column, or preparing for the afterlife — this writer is always very early

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / May 13, 2011

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I have this strange tic. I drive the Mass Pike into Boston almost every day, and about 4 miles before I hit the Allston-Brighton tolls I pull out my Fast Lane transponder. A normal person has the transponder stuck to his or her windshield or whips out the doodad a few hundred yards before arriving at the tolls.

I do almost everything before it needs to be done. I pull out my house keys 15 minutes before arriving home. At night, I turn off my car headlights long before my ride is over. I pack for trips a week before departing. I arrive almost everywhere early, which is a pain. Only recently have I learned to bring a book or magazine with me.

Should I set my watch backward half an hour? But I might miss “The Deadliest Catch’’!

I read somewhere that Sigmund Freud always arrived at train stations two hours early. Sounds like me at Logan. (Freud apparently had a full-blown train phobia; fodder for an article in Arrive, Amtrak’s giveaway magazine, perhaps.) I once wrote a book and handed in the manuscript early. A friend accused me of violating a sacred code, and betraying the cause of dilatory writers everywhere.

All in all, this seems like a harmless little anxiety disorder, maybe a benign subset of an obsessive-compulsive personality. But what to call it? Transactio Praecox? Premonitory Personality Syndrome? Then it hit me — Precrastination!

Could this brainstorm survive a Google search? Alas, no. The online Urban Dictionary has several entries for my brilliant neologism, although none precisely describes my behavior. The fourth definition is the most subtle: “The act of delaying an action prior to actually delaying an action.’’ In other words, pre-procrastination, which is not my problem, by a long shot. I’m more a pre-precrastinator, or a pro precrastinator, which await their definitions.

Luckily, I don’t cook. Dinner would be ready by 10 a.m., the following day’s breakfast by noon. I would probably be tempted to eat all of my day’s meals while reading the morning papers. Of course, the body isn’t engineered for that. We’re not squirrels, yet. You can’t pack all of the month’s exercising or sleeping into just the first three days, although that, too, would be mightily convenient. My mania for advance planning has enslaved me to the 10-day weather forecasts, which are notoriously unreliable.

Where does this all lead? I’ve been using Google Maps to check traffic backups on the B4016 country road that leads into Sutton Courtenay, where George Orwell is buried. (The traffic looks light once you leave the A34 highway.) I’m hoping to squeeze in a visit at the end of the month. It’s not as if I have planned my funeral service or anything. But I will be disappointed not to hear “For All the Saints,’’ and “O, God Our Help in Ages Past.’’ At least they won’t have to rent a large hall.

As an aspirational reincarnator, I have given some thought to my next lives. Might this be called preincarnation? (Take that, Urban Dictionary!) I might enjoy coming back as a major league baseball catcher, even though I know it’s hard on the knees. Alas, even on the most optimistic timetable, I would not hit the bigs in time to solve the Red Sox’ current crisis behind the plate.

It is tempting to start planning my next life as a rich corporate slimeball. Did you see that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took a 17 percent pay cut this year, down to $68 million? Not fair! The job has its plusses; you can inhabit your own island off the coast of Georgia, for starters. But who needs the headaches? The “kid lawyers from the SEC’’ — that wonderful Melvyn Douglas quote from the movie “Being There’’ — latch on to your case, and suddenly you’re facing three years at Club Fed, teeing up with the other market crooks. I hate golf. I’m not sure the game is worth the candle.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I enjoyed writing it several days ago and handing it in well before deadline. By now I’ve probably written the next column, and given some thought to the one after that. (I assume you know that the Christian Rapture, always good column fodder, has been rescheduled to May 21 . . .) Wait! It’s almost time for summer vacation. I am there, in spirit.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is