A Leaper is someone born on February 29th. In the United States, 187,000 people have this distinction. Worldwide, it’s about four million. The odds of being born on February 29th are roughly one in 1,461. I say roughly even though 1,461 is not an approximation because three times every 400 years we suspend the practice when the centennial occurs on a date not evenly divisible by four. The years 2100, 2200 and 2300 will not have leap days but 2400 will. This is to account for the few radical leap minutes that sieve out of every orbit around the sun.
Not many famous people were born leapers. No Presidents or Kings or World Champions of any sort that I could find. This seems to be a birthday devoted to also-rans, supporting actors and bronze medalists. Cases in point:
- Writer Stephen Curwick (Police Academy), born 1960
- Actors and twins, Mark and Paul Easton (All Mine to Give), 1956
- Writer Howard Nemerov (The Homecoming Game), 1920
- Dinah Shore (American singer and actress), born one hundred years ago this month
- Jimmy Dorsey (American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader), 1904
- Writer Stephen Chalmers (Looking for Trouble, etc.), 1880
- Pope Paul III, 1468
You could argue that Jimmy Dorsey and Dinah Shore grabbed the brass ring, but the rest were soon forgotten. Even the Pope looks like a typo at first glance.
You could say this day is cursed in some regards as it was on this day in 1692 that the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts. It was also on this day in 1504 that America’s first adopted Son, Christopher Columbus, used his knowledge of the lunar eclipse that was to occur on this day to convince Jamaican Native Chiefs to continue providing his men with provisions or else the gods would turn the moon blood-red. It worked, and it has got to go down as detente’s greatest magic trick since the Trojan Horse.
If that’s not scary enough, guys, consider yourselves lucky not to be living in Europe where some countries still consider this Bachelor’s Day. That’s the day the gals can propose to the gents. If the gent declines he must buy the gal a pretty dress, or twelve pairs of white gloves to hide her ring-less finger.
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s February that gets bequeathed, it’s not because it started life as the runt of the litter. No, you can thank Big Ego for the backhanded privilege, Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus’s specifically. He nicked two days from February to begin with and gave them to his own namesake month because Julius Caesar’s namesake had 31 days. Et tu, Augustus?
Responses to what you plan on doing with your extra day this month varied, but most writers said they would spend the day writing, or doing nothing different. The 29th falls on a Monday this year so a long weekend could be in the cards if you have some vacation time coming. If not, call in sick and do something different next weekend, something totally sporadic. Why not? What boss is going to dock you for taking a sick day that’s only symptomatic once every four years? Besides, February 29th should be groundhog day, not February 2nd. Make it the National Labor Lottery Day and if Punxsutawney Phil wakes up and sees his shadow on the 29th, we all go to work that leap day. If he doesn’t, we all take the day off. Hint: put the rodent in a den on the north slope and don’t let him sleep in.
In other news, I had a couple of good suggestions for what to include as a freebie for buying my book, Broken String, when it comes out. The bookmarker idea won because it is such a good fit and very cost effective. And, it can be sent out digitally. That won out over the book of matches, (ouch!) but it was close!