What To Do With Leap Day


I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my Leap Day. I know, confessing that makes me sound like I can’t make decisions before the last minute. It’s not like we haven’t known it was coming. The leap day’s been scheduled for thousands of years now, and here we are maybe hours away, and I still don’t have an idea in mind.

Anyway there’s not much point my making plans too far ahead. I’ll end up forgetting them anyway. I’m so good at forgetting plans that I can forget my plans while I’m making them. It’s only months after the plan would have mattered that I’ll have any inkling of the idea. I’ll sit bolt upright in bed — dropping a conversation mid-sentence, if I have to, to rush back home, change into my sweatpants, and hide in bed, to sit up in it — and slap my head. It’s enough to make people think I’m not that good at interacting with them.

I also don’t know what other people are going to do with their leap day. I figure most are just going to take it as the 29th of February. It’s kind of cliche, but it’s got a lot of public support. And there’s almost nothing else to do with it. In 1996 I tried putting my leap day into my checking account. By the time I took it out again, in June when it would do me some good, the monthly fees had reduced it to 23 hours and 46 minutes. I don’t mind losing fourteen minutes from my day if I’m doing something useful with it, like ping-ponging between Nathan Rabin’s web site and Son of Stuck Funky, trying to figure if there is a new article, while waiting for whatever Javascript monstrosity they’re running to finally crash my web browser. But that’s my choice. I don’t want it lost because the bank is nickel-and-daying me. Also, “nickel-and-daying” is a phrase that I like, and yet I know not a single other person in the world is ever going to like it. Not even a little bit. It’s not even not funny. It exists outside the realm of possible amusement. It’s the writing equivalent of a blot of ink on the wall too small to care about repainting. It just is, and barely so, and will never be more than that. And yet I have already wasted fourteen minutes today grinning at it.

Anyway, after that experience I’ll probably take Leap Day as the 29th too. It can be fun having this sort of exceptional day. We all know how it exists outside the normal bounds of time and space. None of the ordinary laws of time exist. You can sleep in until 3:30 pm and still be in time to catch the sunrise, four times over. You can spend an hour on the phone talking with your parents and finally hang up two minutes before you call them. You can watch one of those two-minute Popeye flash cartoons and have it fill eighteen hours of the day. You can spend 57,500 years trapped in amber and be broken out and it’s still not 10:30 am. You can return library books that were due the 28th and not get charged late fees. You can turn on broadcast TV and catch an all-new episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It’s everything that’s fun about Daylight Saving Time, only twenty-four times as much of it, and no whining. If you want to declare it’s outside the whole seven-day week experience, that it’s actually happening on “Thworbsday”, nobody can protest. That’s just how the day works.

And yet for all that, my imagination fails me. I used to know what to do with a free day. I would play Civilization II, trying to repeat cool experiences like conquering the entire world without ever building a boat. Today? I don’t know. There’s stuff that I could usefully do, like spend a couple hours deleting e-mails from the Amy Klobuchar campaign. But, jeez, I could do that anytime. I could delete them as fast as the campaign sends them to me. Well, OK, no I couldn’t. But still: the day doesn’t come up much at all. It really seems like I could have something more special going on.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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