MAD DOG: Three Day Weekends Forever

As human beings we've got an awful lot of things backwards. You'd think that after all these years on earth -- after all, researchers estimate intelligent life has inhabited this planet for, oh, eight or ten years now -- we'd have figured it out a little better than we have. Think again. We work too much, play too little, and think inhaling deeply as we walk through the fragrance department counts as stopping to smell the roses. But it's not too late.

First, there's work. We start our careers as soon as possible, then work as long and hard as we can, leaving little time for fun and leisure activities. We do this until retirement, which are those golden years when we sit around wondering why we worked so much when we were young, have so little to show for it, and now that we have all the time in the world to enjoy the fruits of our labor we can't eat them because we ran out of Poly-grip.

What idiot came up with this concept? A more reasonable approach would be to graduate high school -- or college if you're a sadomasochist -- then embark on a trip around the world, write that novel you think you have in you, or spend some time in a teepee in Arizona with a girl (or guy) named Satellite contemplating the true meaning of trail mix. Then when you turn sixty -- or sooner if you have a note from a psychiatrist saying you're too neurotic to enjoy a life of fun -- you settle down, get a job, and go to work every day. This way you have fun when you're young and can fully enjoy it, and work when you're older and don't care anymore.

"But how will I have the money to travel around the world if I don't work and earn it first?" you're asking, and it would be a darned good question had I not prompted you to say it. The answer is: the Federal Government.

Why shouldn't the government pay for our youthful fun? They pay Jesse Helms to block perfectly good laws. They pay $700 for a screwdriver any dolt can shoplift from Wal-Mart ("Is that a government subsidy in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"). So why not pay for something useful, like this? Besides, it would pay for itself. Unlike the usual government programs -- like most welfare, where people get money for free -- this would have an I.O.U. attached that you'd repay through payroll deduction when you turn sixty and start working. Actually, this plan would save money, since companies wouldn't have to pay into pension funds, Social Security would be abolished, and Medicare wouldn't be necessary since we'd all be working until the day we die, covered by a fully paid employer-supplied HMO, PPO, or in the worst case, a DOA.

"But then we wouldn't have any fun when we're older," you're saying. True, but face it, people don't have much fun when they're old anyway. I'm not saying this to be mean, I'm saying it because I've seen "On Golden Pond", "Driving Miss Daisy", and "Debbie Does Tidybrook Retirement Home." Trust me, it's not pretty. Okay, maybe some old people do have fun. But I know a way we can make sure all of us have more fun: switch to an eight-day week.

This isn't an original idea. I came across it a number of years ago in a column by Bob Greene. He didn't make it up either, it was sent to him by Robert Marrs, a high school social studies teacher in Athens, Ohio. Marrs figured out that if we switched to an eight-day week it would give us forty-five three-day weekends a year. I know you're skeptical, but there actually are a few two-day weekends left, in spite of the government having moved every holiday except the Fourth of July to a Monday (which they would do in a heartbeat except they realize they'd have to change the name to something like Independence Day and who would ever remember a silly name like that?).

The eight-day week would not only give us all those three-day weekends -- and any number of four-day holiday weekends -- it would also mean seven fewer Mondays every year, and considering how we all hate working on Mondays, we'd be much happier campers. But wait, there's more! By adopting the eight-day week we'd only need eleven months. This means we can finally get rid of February which always feels like twenty-eight Mondays in a row.

Other countries already take it easier than we do. Many mandate four or five weeks of vacation a year and make you take it. France shuts down for two hours every weekday so the country can take a long lunch. In Latin and South America everything comes to a halt while people take siestas. In Norway last week the government urged people to take off from noon to 1 P.M. on Wednesday so they could relax and remind themselves how important it is to do that. Meanwhile, back in the U.S. we were having lunch meetings, closing business deals while sitting on the toilet talking on our cell phone, and wondering why we're tired, stressed, cranky, and say "I need a vacation" more often than "Make that to-go."

We have to take a stand. That's why I hereby announce that from now on I'm living an eight-day week and retiring from writing this column until I reach the age of sixty. But it's not like I'll be unreachable. If you need me I'll be in a teepee in Arizona with a girl named Satellite contemplating the true meaning of trail mix. (Hint: it's in the raisins.)

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