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Coral beach at Fort Zach

Key West Leap Year | What shall we do with this extra day?

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


“Man, I am way swamped. If I could just get one more day….” Or variations thereof. We’ve all said them; perhaps even a couple minutes ago. Well, my friends, today we’ve got that one more day. It’s Leap Year Day. Good ol’ Feb. 29, 2020.

What are we going to do with it?

Be thinking while I do a bit of girl-splaining: A calendar year is 365, 24-hour days, once each day around the sun. Except that we round down when we do the calendar. It actually takes 24 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to circumnavigate the sun. Hence, every four years we add a day so that clocks, calendars and the solar system don’t get weirdly out of whack. Like balancing your bank account. (I don’t know what one does if one believes the earth is the center of the universe.)

We call that Leap Year because: “In 365-day years, known as common years, fixed dates advance one day in the week per year. For example, Christmas fell on a Tuesday in 2018 and on a Wednesday in 2019. With the insertion of a leap day, dates (following February) advance two days instead of one. In 2020, Christmas will leap over Thursday to fall on a Friday.” Source:

School marm lecture over.

It’s tempting to suggest, like a Miss America candidate, that we use the extra day to achieve world peace or finish the 2019 income tax forms. Perhaps we could use the found time to increase the island’s tree canopy; clean up the downtown tourist destinations; resolve our differences over tourists-versus-locals; reduce property taxes while increasing services; calm the political waters and return civility; or, my personal favorite: Teach the Cat 5s how to clean their own litter boxes.

Sigh. We know we’re not going to do any of that, despite the best of intentions or magical thinking.

So, in the spirit of using this extra day wisely, here are five things I’m doing:

Celebrate my grandmother’s 29th birthday. Pansy Blossom McFarlin Grist was born Feb. 29, 1904. She lamented she didn’t have a regular birthday, though she would celebrate both Feb. 28 and March 1, figuring a two-fer was reasonable compensation. I’ll raise a toast to her at wine tasting this afternoon.

Contact five friendly acquaintances. Not the friends I see around town most every week. Not the ones in my text strings. The ones on my to-do list who’ve been waiting, perhaps not so patiently, for me to get a few extra minutes to remember they matter. I will not, I fully admit, send the 2017 Christmas cards that have been piled on my desk — ready to mail, I should add — for heading toward three years. I keep saying I need to get them updated with an apology; I probably ought to toss them out.

Pick up trash along my errands route. I do this a lot, but there are (she says with some embarrassment) too many times when I pass by saying “next time.” I’ve got an extra whole day. No excuses.

Say something nice. Be pleasant to the anonymous people who work behind the counters, the checkout, the online support and help lines, the sever who just bollixed up my order, the Duval Loop driver few remember to thank as we disembark. When we’re busy, our minds elsewhere, it’s easy to be snappish and treat those around us as invisible. I’ve got extra time today. Use it to be nice.

Tune out the cacophony for 60 minutes. You could make it all day. We’d love to have a day to do nothing. That’s a pipe dream even on Leap Year Day. But, I can do 60 minutes, all together or in small bites. Do nothing except stare at your toes in the water or the clouds above. Phone turned off; devices shut down. I’m having a panic attack just writing that. No Kindle? No Netflix? No texting? No checking my website or Facebook to see who’s reading this column in the digi-sphere? I might re-think this.

Those are my five. How will you spend your extra day?


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