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David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier: Leap In The Dark


According to an ancient legend, Leap Year Day (today) is the window of opportunity for women to propose marriage to men and, if they are rejected, to claim a silk gown as a forfeit, or perhaps a little item from Victoria's Secret. A Scottish law of 1288 prescribed a fine of "anepundis" or one pound for any man who refused to accept his fate in a gentlemanly fashion. A pound was a lot of money, in those days. More recently, Sadie Hawkins pursued L'il Abner so relentlessly through a thousand cartoon strips that some people call February 29 Sadie Hawkins's Day.

This is all very colorful and amusing, but it doesn't really help us with the fundamental problem highlighted by Leap Year, which is that one extra day every four years is not enough. We are still running our lives according to an arcane set of rules devised by Pope Gregory XIII, for goodness sake in, 1582. Here are the rules: Leap Year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by four, except those that end in 100, unless they are divisible by 400. Thus for example, although you could divide the year 1900 by four, you could not divide it by 400, so it was not a Leap Year. But 1996 was, the year 2000 was, 2016 is, and the year 3000 will not be.  Is that clear?

The arithmetic may be correct. But why is it correct, and why should we care? Why, in this age of computerized time organizers and atomic clocks, are we counting our days according to the Gregorian rules of 1582? That calendar was designed to fit in with the irregular movements of the sun and moon. But who cares about the sun and moon these days? We have electric light and heating and air conditioning and twenty-four hour cable TV to obliterate any trace of the seasons.  Let farmers and gardeners worry about the sun and moon, and the rest of us can arrange our schedules on more convenient lines. It's time to bring the calendar up to date, and make it more compatible with our busy lives.

For example, the year needs to be much longer: 366 days are not nearly enough for all the things we have to do. If the Pope is still in charge of changing the calendar, I'd like His Holiness to know that I for one would prefer a nine-day week - six days to pretend to work, and a three-day weekend to recover. The year should consist of sixty-one of these nine-day weeks. This would extend the present crowded year by a full six months, so we could all take much longer vacations, February would arrive in August, and birthdays would arrive much less frequently, which would be a great improvement.

While I'm on the subject of time, the Biblical allocation of three score years and ten, even when stretched by medical science to four or even five score years, just goes by too fast. A lot of that time is wasted, and therefore ought not be debited against our quota of life on earth. Those futile hours and days should be deducted, the way we deduct necessary expenses from income tax. For example, time spent standing in line at the post office, or sitting in meetings, or doing dishes or cutting grass or filling out idiotic bureaucratic forms. These should not to be counted as part of life for mortality purposes. Time spent being kept on hold for hours by heartless mega-corporations should not be counted. Time on the Long Island Railroad should definitely not be counted.

With all these deductions from our lifetime account we could live more or less forever. One extra day is no big deal. We need a whole new calendar, and a whole new contract.

Copyright: David Bouchier