"How long are you going to be, Madam?"
"Oh, about an hour and a half," I said gaily, handing the nice valet driver my keys.
In a triumph of personal organization, I had actually managed to get from the suburbs to the Willard Hotel in time to attend a lunchtime speech.
It is not an easy thing to get from the suburbs to the Willard Hotel, you know, certainly not on time and fully dressed. It takes planning. It takes discipline. It requires a person to fend off a hundred other infinitely expandable errands and tasks that are clamoring to be completed, that tempt a person to leave too late or eventually not at all. I was darned pleased with myself to have made it.
The carpeted steps met my feet gently as I approached the gleaming front doors. Ah, it was good to be downtown during the day, amid all the tourists and the purposeful men and women in suits! There was the distant Capitol, boiling with intrigue. Here was a hushed and luxurious lobby. What a pleasant change it made from the domestic sphere.
There was another aspect to this event that made the day especially satisfying: It marked a victory over the forces of chaos and mismanagement.
Ours is a busy household, into which paperwork flows like a never-ending herd of stampeding wild animals. The sheep of this paperwork must be separated from the goats, and unfortunately, the cowboy -- as you might say -- is not the world's most organized fellow. He isn't a fellow, either; he is your humble columnist.
I do not like to think how often crucial sheep-papers have accidentally been filed with goat-papers, or lost entirely among the buttes and canyons of the Monument Valley that is my desk.
So you will appreciate the miracle: I had managed not only to keep track of the invitation but also to reply to it, to enter the date into the calendar and, mirabile dictu, to have put the invitation in my handbag ahead of time so that I would not accidentally leave it behind when the day came. Plus, I'd made it in person. Success!
"Good afternoon, Madam," said a nice woman behind the front desk. "May I help you?"
Why yes, thank you. She pointed me in the right direction, and I clicked across the lobby. It was very quiet, that lobby. I checked my phone and saw that the lunch had in fact started a few minutes earlier. Quickening my pace, I entered a plush hallway.
It was odd. The hallway was empty save for a lone man bent over his laptop. No doubt the hour was too early for people to be sipping Champagne from the glasses laid out on each low table, but still -- you'd expect to see at least a little life. I reached into my handbag for the invitation.
Had I got the room wrong? I glanced at its creamy surface and saw that I had not got the wrong room. Then I saw something else and let out an involuntary cry.
"Is something wrong, Madam?"
Oh, it was a triumph of personal organization all right.
As a herd of invisible livestock surged past me, frisking and bawling, I held the invitation out toward the nice hotel employee.
"Nothing's wrong," I said feebly, "I'm just a week early, is all."
Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.