It’s About Time

Good news for all those who have wished for more hours in a day, more days in a week. Your wishing has paid off – sort of. It’s Leap Year, and we all get one whole day – 24 hours – added to this calendar year. Break out the champagne and let’s celebrate.

Which brings me to the question: shouldn’t February 29th be a holiday? After all, it is an extra day. Any other year, it doesn’t even exist. So a once-in-four-year-event seems special enough, and it certainly merits more than just another day at work. Besides where’s the harm in letting people have a little fun while juggling the timekeeping books?

And while we’re asking the hard questions, here’s another one: Why February? Who, pray tell, needs an extra day in February? It’s not that I have anything against the month, but February is…well, to be blunt, blah. It doesn’t even get a whole month’s worth of days to start with, so it can’t be that important. On top of that, February is gray. Gray. Gray. Gray. Stuck right in the middle of the winter season, it occurs just at the point where we’ve all had enough of it. Bring on spring!

People have been trying to help February for a long time. They invented Valentine’s Day to help break the monotony and bolster a little excitement, then added a birthday bash for George and Abe to enliven it a bit more – but neither seems to help much. It’s still February. The only people who have it right are New Orleanians. Heck, they have one big party that lasts most of the month. It’s hard enough to remember what day it is, let alone what month.

So instead of February, why not put that extra day in November or December- when we’re all going nuts trying to get everything done for the holidays? Or June, July, August when we’re loving the hazy, crazy days of summer? Or April, when spring is in the air? Actually, why not any month except February?

Author’s Note: This appeared in the Almanac of Arlington Heights.

All this got me to doing a little research and thinking. Leap Year, they say, is necessary to keep us in sync with the vernal (spring) equinox and to correct for some rounding down – it actually takes the earth a little more than 365 days to circle the sun. If left unchecked this discrepancy would get us into a heck of mess (like we aren’t already – but that’s another story). Anyway, I’ve come up with a plan, though the details are still a little fuzzy. Consider this:

What if, instead of saving up the time for four years and blowing it all at once and in one place, we got creative? Suppose we established a time account for every single person in the world, much like a bank account. We could call them Individual Time Accounts (ITAs), and all those little minutes that aren’t making it into the calendar each year would be deposited into our ITAs on a monthly, or quarterly, basis. These accounts then over time would accrue time. Then, say you have a big deadline coming up, and you’re running a little behind on getting it completed. PRESTO! You whip out your handy little ITA debit card and swipe it, and in an instant you have an extra hour or two, or three –right when you need it the most! Not a bad idea, huh?

Now, I realize that 24 hours spread over four years is an accrual of only about six hours a year, which isn’t a lot, but we could apply a little American ingenuity. Take John, my husband. He doesn’t need extra hours; he always manages to get things done within the allotted time. So his ITA would just keep on ticking, accruing hour after hour, year after year. He would be a real “time saver,” unlike me, who would most probably live time check to time check. In a situation like that John, being the great guy that he is, could happily donate his time to me. So now instead of 24 hours, I’ve got 48 extra hours to work with. How priceless is that!

I can see this time thing could become big business. An enterprising person might advertise their extra hours on eBay, or hock them down at the local clock shop.

The financial world would get involved, of course. Banks could advertise Time CDs and Time Markets that accrue APRs in minutes, or more likely seconds. Wall Street could sell time shares and really trade in Futures. Time Magazine could publish its list of the top ten time tycoons each year, and, of course, the government would have something new to tax.

Yipes! That’s scary – something new for the government to tax? On second thought, maybe we should just work on getting February 29th declared a national holiday.