If you are a part of the watch industry, love watches or simply have time on your hands, you’ll almost certainly be aware that at midnight on December 31st 2008, or more precisely at 23.59.60, the year was extended by a leap second to align us with astronomical time, thus giving us 31,622,401 precious seconds to remember in 2008 – that’s 86,400 more for 29th of February plus the additional leap second as decreed by The International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service.
For the life of me I can’t even remember half of them, but I do remember that extra second. It was a dark and stormy night: dark because the lights had fused in the restaurant and stormy because someone had taken advantage of the lack of light to grope the women. It was also the end of a leap year and according to an ancient Celtic tradition, women have another opportunity to propose to men - over and beyond that of the standard February 29th.
The custom of the ladies being allowed to propose to the men dates way back to pre-television days in the fifth century when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick, not by e-mail but face to face, that women had to wait too long before men proposed marriage to them. St Patrick hummed and hawed and after some persistent feminine nagging finally yielded, declaring in his infinite wisdom that women could propose to men only on February 29th – i.e. once every four years. A pretty cool dude that St. Patrick. The penalty for declining the offer of marriage is the purchase of a dress for the lady in question, but either which way, the male of the species is going to have to get used to spending his hard earned pennies.
One presumes that St. Bridget must have looked like the rear end of the lesser spotted hyena otherwise she wouldn’t have been so eager to get her hands on a man (if you’ll excuse the illusion). Anyway, she passed on the good news to the Irish spinsters and from time to time, when the Guinness had been flowing in abundance, and men’s socks were about to walk to the pub on their own, gentlemen sometimes succumbed to the female propositions.
However, the Guild of Young Ugly Colleen Killjoys – of which St. Bridget was a member and the acronym just happens to be YUCK – was not satisfied with St. Pat’s dictum and tried for a better deal by nagging him and his mates for a century or so, but to no avail. Today, sixteen centuries later, you’ll still see many a YUCK on February 29th trying to use her feminine wiles to capture a prize worthy of the Mr Universe title, but if they fail, as they usually do, they opt for the use of the directive added into their Guild’s statutes in 1972, which states ‘Proposals can also be made during the leap second whenever one is added to the year.’
Now for the reason I especially remember that second. Earlier in the evening of December 31st, I was talking to some other slightly inebriated revellers when a covey of unaccompanied ladies arrived to participate in the evening’s celebrations. With my usual aplomb I casually ogled them, but to my shame I let out an “Oh yuck!” when my eyes fell upon a ninety-eight kilo, broken-nosed, hairy lipped descendent of the afore-mentioned St. Bridget. Having heard my stifled cry and thinking that this was a come on, she held out until the extra second and then with a headlong leap in my direction that defied both gravity and her massive carcass, proposed marriage whilst in mid-air.
Silence reigned whilst she gluttonously devoured the cream cake on which she had landed and the restaurant’s owner picked up the broken table and chairs to put into his pizza oven. Fortunately, the leap second had passed and I was no longer under any obligation to reply. The girl’s gaggle of friends picked her up as if they were lifting nothing more than a marshmallow, gave me a derisory look and marched out whilst singing in unison a chorus of their Guild’s anthem, ‘I’m gonna hire a junkie to paint the bathroom and then make him keep me warm’.
I hope you had a 31st as eventful as mine and that you didn’t get caught out by the leap second. If you did, I have the e-mail addresses of the dropouts from ‘Assassins Anonymous’, if not, give a second thought to all those seconds from last year that you didn’t give a second thought to at the time. It’s quite therapeutic.
Let me take this opportunity of wishing you a Happy New Year. I hope that all those harbingers of economic doom have over-stated this year’s outlook and that the capital of Iceland changes back from twenty dollars to Reykjavik.
For those of you willing to smile in the face of adversity there’s the story of the man who went to his branch of UBS last week and said, “I'd like to start a small watch company. How do I go about it?”
“Easy,” said the bank manager, “buy a big one and wait.”
You’ve go to laugh haven’t you? Here’s to your health,
Source: Europa Star February-March 2009 Magazine Issue