Leap years are dangerous.
Yesterday started just fine. It was, in fact, almost ideal. I stuffed two pieces of left-over cake into my mouth as I drove to catch the 7AM bus (talk about a breakfast of champions!) and actually managed to get there on time. I finished one reading (Schiller's The Robbers) on the bus, and was ready to tackle Byron's "The Giaour" on my 30-minute bike ride at the gym. All was right with the world.
I didn't finish all of Byron's 50-some pages on the bike, so I sat myself down in the GSEA lounge with an apple and an orange and a pot of lenten tea (perhaps better known as hot water.) I finished the poem before 9:30, and had half an hour to go back and double-check the things I didn't catch.
At this point, a fellow student walked in and asked what I thought of the prison reform documents.
A substantial pause followed, as I searched through short and long-term memory for some indication of which class I was supposed to read prison reform documents for. I recalled seeing something in an e-mail from Dr. K (the Friday-morning prof), but remembered very distinctly that I had seen Schiller and Byron on the schedule for the 29th.
To make a long story short, it turns out that I had missed or forgotten an e-mail explaining a switch in the schedule; Schiller and Byron are next week.
I found myself in an unprecedented situation, being an entire week ahead in my reading!
Sadly, from another point of view I was also a week behind.
With only twenty minutes until the beginning of class I resigned myself to fate. I managed to fake my way through a three-hour seminar by asking more-or-less intelligent questions about the principles of prison reform that were being discussed.
Thankfully, leap days only come once every year divisible by four years.
This is especially fortunate for those of us who happen to be single gentlemen, given the nearly-forgotten tradition of "The Ladies' Privilege":
Because leap years are seen as unusual events that disturb the otherwise orderly progression of days/months/years, certain beliefs have been attached to them. ... Leap years, according to folk tradition, were the only times when women could propose marriage to men, with this belief often termed "The Ladies' Privilege." Yet even within this hypothesis there was disagreement as to how far it went — a great many of those who encountered this custom did not see it as applicable throughout the length of a leap year, but only to the extra day itself; that is, only to
Another school of thought held that a man so entreated either had to accept the proposal or pay the refused woman a substantial forfeit for turning her down, such as a silk gown or £100. ... In another form of the belief, men who said no ... attracted ill fortune to themselves. In yet another twist, if the gal who did the asking had failed to wear a scarlet flannel petticoat, or if a corner of the same were not partly visible under her dress, the man who declined would be spared the ill luck that a turn-down would ordinarily have propelled his way.
Someone informed me of this custom yesterday (by way of an informal proposal), but she had obtained her information third-hand, and seems unaware that she might have got a dress out of the deal.
Again, I'm glad February 29th doesn't happen very often.