Commentary 29 Feb 2008 05:21 am

A little extra cash in the leap year?

Here is my column from Feb. 28, 2008, originally published in The Alliance Review.

Thanks to leap year, many of us have an extra pay this February.

Nothing gets a good old-fashioned verbal scuffle going in my house like the announcement of a third paycheck in a month.

My wife asserts the extra check is like “found money,” an unlooked-for windfall similar to collecting $200 just for passing Go. She spends the money like it’s found, too, until it’s all lost.

I admit this month has an extra pay because Friday is the 29th instead of March 1. This is self-evident. Most months, we are paid twice, once every other week. This month, payday comes knocking three times.

But it’s not extra money. It’s a trick of the calendar. We are paid 26 times a year, with set salaries. The boss didn’t look at the date and say, “Oh, we’ll give the proles a bonus 27th pay this because there are five Fridays.”

My creditors — those guys with the lean and hungry faces lurking about the front door, licking their chops and chortling — don’t give me a break by deducting money from my bills. Those amounts are set, too. (Set, game and match, you might say.)

So it’s an extra pay, but not extra money.

It’s like those smart-alecks who have birthdays on Feb. 29 and try to pass themselves off as 5, 12 or 22 years old when they’re really 20, 48 or 88. Just because your actual calendar day of birth only rolls around once every four years doesn’t mean you don’t age one year for every 365 days like the rest of us.

DC Comics used to assert that Superman’s birthday was Feb. 29, as a nudge-nudge wink-wink sort of joke, I guess, that explained how he’s been around since 1938 but remains eternally 29 years old.

Working at a newspaper, even a great Metropolitan one like the Daily Planet, poor Superman probably doesn’t have as much money stuffed away in his tights as he would like. He probably knows a thing or two about the excitement of an extra-pay Friday in a month, too, although he’s too smart to fall for the idea of that third check being “found money.”

Now that he and Lois Lane are married, I wonder if he ever worries about her down there at the mall, spending his hard-earned reporter’s pay while he’s soaring above Earth, rescuing cats from trees, putting out fires with his icy breath and foiling Lex Luthor’s latest scheme. Of course, a guy who can wring diamonds out of anthracite probably isn’t too concerned where his next meal is coming from, is he?

A strictly hypothetical question. Superman is fictional. I know this.

The previous paragraph led me on a 20-minute Internet search to learn if psychologists recognize a specific delusion where the sufferer believes fictional characters are real. The search was fruitless. The very young and the very old sometimes have imaginary friends, and most kids usually grow out of the belief that cartoon and movie characters actually exist, but these aren’t quite the same as otherwise rational adults believing that Superman, Indiana Jones and James Bond are living, breathing people.

This is also different than adults and kids who are misinformed, have been misled, or are just plain stupid. For example, a recent survey by UKTV Gold found that 58 percent of Brits surveyed believe Sherlock Holmes is real, while 23 percent believe Winston Churchill is make-believe. That’s not delusional, it’s just dumb.

Any armchair psychologists out there are invited to chime in on the subject. While they’re at it, what’s the clinical diagnosis for a person who believes a fifth-Friday pay is extra money, then proceeds to blow through it like water?

Just curious.

2 Responses to “A little extra cash in the leap year?”

  1. on 29 Feb 2008 at 1.Laura said …

    I agree with your wife, and always treated those extra pay weeks (when we got them) like a bonus. My reasoning: most people budget on two paychecks a month. You have had two paychecks in February, and you will have two paychecks in March. That extra paycheck today is money over and above what you normally have in a month, so treat yourself. Clearly this only works if you really do live on a two paycheck per month budget. If you live paycheck to paycheck, then the number of paychecks a month really doesn’t matter.

  2. on 29 Feb 2008 at 2.Joni said …

    This reminds me of a term we discussed in one of my communications classes in college: para-social relationships. From what I recall, these occur when someone watches a show so much that they begin to identify and form relationships with the characters. While the person may not actually believe the TV character to be “real,” they may begin talking about them as if they were a part of his or her own life. Ex: “I can’t believe Rachel and Ross broke up…how could they do this to me?” It’s sad, but some people really do get that into their shows.

    That’s all the armchair psychology I have for today.

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