Flying leap
Celebrating that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Flying leap
Zach Hively - 02/29/2024

Today is Leap Day. On such a holy day as this, nothing grabs an elated reader’s attention like math.

Get this. The Telegraph has been publishing on Thursday for 21 years, unless I’m wrong about that. But Leap Day leaps onto Thursdays only once every 28 years, unless calendars and Wikipedia are wrong about that. Therefore, this very day is the first Leap Day issue of the Telegraph in the history of the entire universe.

But that’s not all. Sure, the next such issue will drop in 2052, give or take a few threats to our democracy and Missy’s threshold for unsolicited letters to the editor. But I, your favorite columnist (or at least your third-longest-tenured one), write only one out of every five weeks. So, just playing the digits here, I’ll have to wait FIVE MORE LEAP DAY ISSUES, which I can’t calculate in years because I’m an English major who didn’t benefit from Common Core math in school. I only got to benefit from D.A.R.E, where I and many of my peers developed an uncanny ability to recognize street drugs in a word search and laughed a lot about the word “crack.”

So! This is a literal once-in-my-lifetime opportunity, this chance to write a Leap Day La Vida. In the immortal words of Alexander Hamilton, I’d rather not blow my chance.

Which is why it’s such a shame that I have nothing better to write about than social isolation.

Now I, personally, do not suffer from social isolation. I get off on it. I’m celebrating Leap Day entirely by myself, with no company at all, except, of course, my two dogs and the staff where I’ll pick up dinner and maybe some pay-by-the-minute phone entertainer and, naturally, whoever I happen to run into while taking my dogs on a walk to pick up dinner, because it never fails that I run into SOMEONE when I’m busy trying to celebrate a joyous occasion in a public space by myself. 

But other people really and truly do suffer from social isolation. It’s a serious issue for many. I can usually identify them as the people I run into on walks. They are so hungry for human interaction, and lack the resources to pay for it, that they’ll stop me to prattle on and on about things that really do not matter to anyone but themselves, and I for some reason engage them. I’ll start to wonder if they even have a point besides filling space, but I can tell just by looking that they’re barely even halfway finished with their spiel, and I’m too polite and/or inept to just stop reading – erm, I mean listening – so I tough it out as an act of public service to the socially isolated who, unlike me, are unhappy with the condition.

It occurs to me, though, that the true meaning of Leap Day is the inspiration to become, if not a better, at least a different person for a day. I really shouldn’t be quietly tolerating my fellow man. Rather, I should be getting far, far away from him. 

Take one friend of mine who – on this very Leap Day – is flying to Los Angeles. The City of Angels! The city of dreams! Where anything is possible, so long as it can be achieved while sitting in traffic. She has the right idea: Go where there are so many people that none of them want anything to do with you.

I know this is how Los Angeles works because I was just there. Right idea, poor timing – I missed the entire Leap Day celebration of solitude. But while there, the only strangers who spoke to me were the volunteers hammering me to sign some petition or other. I learned, straight away, that they needed signatures from Los Angeles residents. So, unlike when I’m on my local walks, I could just say, “Sorry, I don’t live here,” and I won points for not ignoring them while also not breaking my stride.

Then, I just dropped my shoulder and elbowed my way through, which on the surface seems rude, except really I was simply saving their time and breath for someone who is a better human being than I am.

All this to say, believe it or not, that while you commemorate today according to your own traditional customs, there are others less fortunate than you who have no one to celebrate with. Then there are others even less fortunate than them, those who have too many people interfering with their festivities. Don’t wait 140 years to reach out to them. Do it today: gesture at your earbuds apologetically, mouth “sorry” at them, and keep on walking.

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