There’s early, and early. My early is “arrive in place ten to fifteen minutes before time, unless otherwise needed,” or unless traffic might be a problem. Military early ranges from fifteen minutes before time to two hours before time (although the latter might be a trifle exaggerated. Or perhaps not). Sib’s early has shifted from “ten seconds before I’m too late, give or take” to “ten minutes before call time” to “thirty minutes early because Big City Traffic might strike.”
I get twitchy if other people don’t leave early enough for me to be early/on-time. Yes, it’s a control thing, and it’s not my fault, but still. Being prompt is polite. And if you have been left standing, panting for air after racing for a bus or train that departed without you, well . . . Especially if you are in Vienna, at night, and the end of that vehicle had a blue light on it. Guess what? You just missed the last one of the night. It’s going to be a long walk to find a taxi, or just a long walk. I darn near missed a boat that way, and had to jump from shore onto the moving vehicle. In my defense, and that of the people I was with, we were given the wrong departure time and the crewman standing beside the tour boss did not correct her. The tour boss thought it was amusing that the four of us almost had a massive logistical problem (trying to get from Tiny Town, Germany to Larger City by milk-train and bus, then find the correct pier with our boat.)
High school students seem to feel that early is “ten seconds before I’m officially tardy.” Except for the one who claws at the door to be let in ten minutes before students are allowed into the building.
Athena’s early is . . . I have no idea. I know that her “I want attention and food” generally comes at my “oh cat, the alarm won’t go off for another half hour. Hush!” Unless it is Caturday, when she gets up on weekday time, not weekend time.
I come from a military/aviation/medical background, where on time means on the specified time or before. Other cultures, especially ones that are farther in time from the introduction of the mechanical clock, time-clock, and “be here or be fired” tend to ease along and get there when they get there. After all, there’s sunrise, and cow milking if you have cows, and then you do whatever work needs to be done. The clock is not all-powerful and all-important, assuming you have a clock. This approach to things works pretty well in an agricultural society. Not so well in a society that wants to know exactly what time “mañana.”
But a lot of us, around the world, know what it means to run on “Lonesome Standard Time.”