The boldest political idea of the 21st century

(I promise there are no actual politics contained herein.)

You know what we need right now? 

Big ideas.

In this country, our staid two-party political system mostly covers a linear spectrum between the two major party poles of “we should kill poor people” to “we should allow poor people to die”. Third parties, for their part, mostly fall cleanly on the left-right axis, too—supporting softer or sharper versions of the same old ideas.

But where have all the weirdos gone?

You know what I mean. The mad, esoteric, silly factions with bold new visions for our future. The nutcases. The people who can rally 1% of the population behind a really bonkers idea that the other 99% can laugh at while secretly thinking “okay but that is kind of a neat idea, though.”

America used to be a place of big ideas. The New Deal. The Space Race. New Coke. We haven’t had a big idea in this country since stuffed-crust pizza, and think that’s why we’ve devolved into such bitter infighting. 

That ends now.

I’m making my entry into the marketplace of ideas and yelling until security is called, because I have A Big Idea.

I think we should reform the calendar.

Some of our concepts of time are set by nature—the length of a day by the rotation of the Earth, the length of a year by the Earth’s transit around the sun—but others, like the length of a week or month, are historical relics, crafted long ago by political and religious leaders to fit the needs of societies much different than our own. In many ways, these concepts are outdated. 

First of all, how many days are in a year? 365, unless it’s a leap year.

How many days are in a week? Seven.

How many weeks are in a year? 365/7 = 52.142857.

Gross.

We need to clean this up. We need a new calendar.

Today, I’m proposing to you a new calendar: The Freesday Calendar.

There are still seven days in a week. But now there are only 50 weeks in a year. Much cleaner than 52. Metric, almost. 

But wait, that’s only 350 days?

Exactly. 

We will have 50 formal weeks of 7 days in our calendar, and that will leave us with 15 extra days in a solar year.

These will become flex days. Freesdays.

A Freesday will not be any other day of the week. It will not be a Friday or a Monday, nor will it be a Tuesday or a Sunday. It will be a Freesday, and it will happen when we need it to happen.

You know those weeks where everything feels like a drudge, the news cycle’s gone completely off the rails, and it just seems like everyone in the world is het up about something—and it’s barely Tuesday afternoon? The kind of week where people start sharing that “It Only Tuesday” article from The Onion, or the “Lemon, It’s Wednesday” meme from 30 Rock? Well, at those times, when it just doesn’t seem like the world is going to make it to Friday with our wits intact, we can throw a flag.

We can declare a Freesday.

If the decision is made on a Tuesday, then suddenly, tomorrow’s not Wednesday: it’s Freesday. Everything shuts down, and we all just chill the eff out for 24 hours. When it’s over and we’ve all caught our breath? We pick back up, fully refreshed, ready for our Wednesday. 

But who would decide when Freesday happens?

We would establish an International Freesday Commission. Something akin to those scientists who set the Doomsday clock, or the College Football Playoff Committee.

It would have representatives from all over the world. Great thinkers. Economists, labor and spiritual leaders. Public health officials. Guy Fieri, if he’s into it. At least one dog. A cool one—one that wears sunglasses, preferably.

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A coordinated international effort to suspend the workweek? But how?

Look, 2020 has been terrible, but one silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic has been in showing that (most) government is in fact capable of serious, ad hoc and widespread intervention for public health needs. Some might view this as a dangerous precedent, a slippery slope to totalitarianism, but A) those are usually the people who happily support actual totalitarians and B) shut the hell up.

We’re not saying “everyone must bow before the New World Order”, we’re saying “hey, take tomorrow off and read a book or play some Animal Crossing or something.”

I feel like Americans would probably still be difficult about it.

Probably! But it’d be a good chance to prove to the rest of the world that we’re trying. We haven’t done that in a while.

Okay, so, they just call one when everyone’s having a really bad day?

Sure! Or whatever reason the commission deems. Maybe a really rad video game is coming out that day, or there’s a cool meme we all need to focus on. Maybe it’s just a great day to go to the beach. It’s up to the commission! (I’m not on the commission.)

What if it’s a really nice day in one part of the world, but not in another?

We’ve got 15 days to work with, so we can make provisions for representatives from each region to occasionally pull heavier influence on the calling of a day. This is known as the “hey, do us a solid?” clause. If it’s just a super nice, sunny, low-humidity day in Japan, say, but it’s raining in the West, we can just take a day off and catch up on Love Island or something. They’d then have our backs if the tables are turned later.

What if one country doesn’t want to take the day off?

Tough shit. Take the day off. You’re not that important.

How would this work for businesses? 

Well, it’s easy. We all just take 24 hours off. It will be illegal for regular businesses to operate on Freesdays. Email systems could be programmed to automatically generate an out-of-office message on Freesdays.

What about essential businesses? They always get screwed. You know, like hospitals, grocery stores, all the people who’ve been getting screwed lately.

Well, first, we’d have to be a lot stricter on the “essential worker” thing than we have been. Are you keeping people alive? Great, you’re essential. No more forcing people to work just because a manager pulled some strings and got a lawn chair manufacturing company deemed essential because they wanted to work their staff to death.

As for the real essential workers—hospitals, for instance—we’d have to work out a system of flex time, ensuring that these people still get the extra days off at a different time.

Also, more money. If you’re essential you should be paid like it. 

Where do restaurants fall in this?

Restaurants are the real hitch. Employees shouldn’t be made to work, but a day where everything else is closed could be a real boon for business, much needed after the necessary limitations of the pandemic. This is where the VSP Plan comes in: Voluntary, Supplemented, and Purge Rules.

Voluntary: no restaurant worker can be forced to work, with strict legal repercussions for managers if they violate this.

Supplemented: workers get a huge extra government stipend for working those days.

Purge Rules: they’re allowed to slap customers. If you’re going to a restaurant on a Freesday, your ass better tip well and behave. This shit ain’t Friday’s. 

Won’t having two fewer weeks in the year hurt the economy over all?

I think the increased productivity we’d see in the back half of the week would more than offset the 3.8% decrease in weeks. A Thursday coming off a Freesday is going to be way more productive than a Thursday coming off three other weekdays. My studies have proven this.

Will you share these studies?

No.

Are there other benefits we could expect to see aside from productivity gains?

Yes, absolutely! First, productivity is a sham and no one should care about it in the first place. The real benefit would be in our collective well-being, both mental and physical. It would also be great for the environment, as the cleaner skies caused by shutdowns this year have shown. We could close off streets on Freesdays, discourage motorized travel. A 3.8% decrease in business days would have a real impact on emissions. 

How far in advance would a Freesday be announced? 

No more than 24 hours. We don’t want people taking big trips or planning around them, finding ways to monetize them. It defeats the purpose. This should be like a snow day, but without the snow. Or with the snow, depending on when it happens. 

But how would people know?

It’s really easy to automatically change the time on smartphones these days, just like my phone figures out Daylight Savings Time without me doing anything. We could also have big Freesday sirens. They’d be like tornado sirens, but more festive. Maybe they’d play a little song.

Hey, won’t the year always start on the same day, then?

Yes. Ideally New Year’s Day would be a Wednesday. That way each year starts with two workdays, then a weekend. This is the ideal scenario to start a year. 

Do you think there’ll be resistance to breaking from the Gregorian Calendar?

Do you think it’s okay that we’ve spent 438 years doing something that a guy named Greg came up with? I once got knocked through a glass patio door by a guy named Greg. It was an accident, sure, but it was also a total Greg move. Let’s stop letting Gregs determine our calendar.

I feel like this might cause a resurgence in people playing that Beatles song “Eight Days A Week”. That song is corny. Animated kids’ show about bugs-ass song.

I share your concern, and I think we would have to preempt this by declaring an Official Anthem of Freesday. Right now my best suggestions are Travis Tritt’s “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” or Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day”. The Freesday Party has a big tent that welcomes a diversity of viewpoints on this matter. We would vote on it, and then play the winning song out of the Freesday sirens.

Doesn’t Freesday sound too much like Friday?

Only in some languages. English, German, sure. Others it’s fine. On calendars, “F” will still designate Friday. Freesday, which obviously will not appear on printed calendars, will be otherwise represented by the ‘smiley face in sunglasses’ emoji. 

Oh yeah, won’t this put print calendar vendors out of business? There’s always that kiosk at the mall.

We will invest in job training programs for mall calendar vendors. They can learn to code. (New digital calendars that will update automatically.)

I have day-of-the-week underpants. What about me?

There can be a one-time tax credit toward the purchase of an eighth pair of underwear, but we also strongly encourage citizens to consider putting the “free” back in Freesday. You’re not going to work anyways. Air it out.

Could the Freesdays also be holidays?

Perhaps, but not like, important ones. You know how once a week or so everyone online is like “oh it’s International Cruller Day” or something like that, and you’re just like “okay well it’s Wednesday and I’m at work, I don’t think I have time or desire to go get a cruller, and also I don’t think this is actually a holiday so much as a marketing thing by the Cruller Council”.

Well, maybe we could graft some of those holidays onto the Freesdays. That’d be a surprise too. Just “okay tomorrow’s a Freesday and it’s the taco one”. Governments would have to keep reserves of taco ingredients on hand for the massive demand, though. Defund Homeland Security and turn their vehicles into food trucks.

Swords into plowshares, baby.

What if I’m on a work trip when it happens? 

What are you talking about? There are no work trips anymore. Are you taking work trips right now? Cut that out.

What about—

You sound stressed.

Well yeah I’ve just spent 10 minutes asking questions about this ridiculous proposal of yours, and I’ve got this big deadline tomorrow.

What if it wasn’t tomorrow?

Oh dang.

Yeah.

Freesday, huh?

Freesday. Call your Senators and Representatives and demand action. 

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Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)

This post made possible by a generous grant from the International Coalition For A Year With More Random Days Off, a subsidiary of Action Cookbook Industries