Yesterday, Twitter was full of tweets about two vaguely interesting features of this month. One was the nice recurrence of the number 10 just after 10 am, at 10:10:10 on 10–10–10. The day was variously referred to as Binary Day; 42 Day or Meaning of Life Day; and various more suggestive names based on the idea that 10 10 10 in Roman numerals would be X X X. (I myself thought the day should be celebrated ten 99ths of a second later, at 10:10:10.10101010 . . . )
The event was disappointing, though: not only did it only last a fraction of a second, but it wasn’t even the same fraction of a second, because 10:10:10 arrived at different times according to what time zone people were in.
The other “amazing fact” was that there are five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the month, coupled with a claim that this only happens once every 823 years. (The claim puzzles me: it only takes a moment’s thought to realise that October does this every time it starts on a Friday.)
Sadly, having more weekends in a month doesn’t make them any more frequent. The days of the week just plod along as normal. Despite appearances, we haven’t actually conjured up any more Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. Even worse, the week still contains its most basic flaw: the Problem of Monday. But the 10:10:10 time-zone fiasco hints at a solution.
The Problem of Monday
The Problem of Monday is simply stated:
- Monday exists;
- it is universally hated;
- there is one in every week, and it lasts a full 24 hours.
Fortunately the problem is easily solved.
The solution to Monday
Why does every week contain a Monday? The answer is simple: there is a Monday in every week because we persist in living the whole week in one time zone. Yet this is quite absurd in today’s world. When I log in to Twitter, I regularly converse with people in Australia (currently something like 9 or 10 hours ahead of UK time), the US (anywhere from 5 to 8 hours behind UK time), Scandinavia and mainland Europe (both currently 1 hour ahead of UK time). When it’s midday here, it can be anything from 4 am to 10 pm for the people I’m talking to. And even when the clock says it’s midday here, it’s not really midday: we’re on British Summer Time at the moment, so the clock says midday when the position of the sun in the sky shows that really it’s 11 am.
Now, when everyone was waiting for 10:10:10 to arrive, there were 24 hours’ worth of times for it to happen. And Monday is only 24 hours long. Given the wide range of times which 10:10:10 could mean, the beginning and end of Monday should be equally movable . . . If we can move them closer together by 24 hours, then Monday will be gone. Is this achievable?
It turns out that it is. We can completely abolish Monday merely by making an appropriate choice of time zone each day. In fact there’s even flexibility to build in specific requirements such as a longer weekend or a nice long Saturday.
Below are several possibilities. They all work on the same principle:
- Between the beginning of Tuesday and the end of Sunday, periodically move the clock back by a specified amount, thereby making some or all of the days longer.
- Arrange for these changes to add up to 24 hours.
- At the end of Sunday, put the clock forward by 24 hours so as to both compensate for the added hours, and remove Monday from the week.
In what follows, GMT is Greenwich Mean Time, GMT+1 means 1 hour ahead of GMT, and so on. In each case, we arrange for our clocks to be set to GMT-12 at the end of Sunday, meaning that changing to GMT+12 will put them forwards by 24 hours and thus eliminate Monday.
Basic solution: equal days
This is the simplest solution to work out, but has some disadvantages. The main one is that although it makes the weekend longer, it only increases it by 8 hours, from 48 to 56.
All we do in this solution is move our clocks back by four hours each day. After six days, we’ve moved the clocks back by a whole day. We’ve effectively shared out Monday’s 24 hours among the other days of the week, which are each 28 hours long. Monday is no longer needed, so we simply skip over it. Here it is in more detail.
- Our Tuesday begins at what other people think is midday on Monday. Our clocks are set to GMT+12, synchronising us with friends in the mid-Pacific.
- At midnight (our time) on Tuesday night, we move our clocks back four hours. We’re now on GMT+8, synchronised with parts of Australia and Asia. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s still light outside; as far as we’re concerned, it’s midnight. Other people will claim that it’s only midday. They’re wrong.What’s important is what our clocks say, not what other people say. Four hours later, our clocks reach midnight for the second time, and Wednesday begins.
- At midnight on Wednesday night, we move our clocks back another four hours. We’re now on GMT+4. Thursday starts at what would be 8 pm GMT.
- On Thursday night, we move our clocks back again. We’re now on GMT, meaning our Friday starts at the same time as everyone else’s.
- On Friday night we move back to GMT-4. Our Saturday starts at everyone else’s 4 am, letting us get up four hours later than them.
- On Saturday night we move back to GMT-8. Our Sunday starts eight hours later than everyone else’s, giving us time for a real Sunday lie-in.
- On Sunday night, we first move our clocks back to GMT-12, postponing midnight by four hours. If we left it at that, our Monday would start twelve hours after everyone else’s, at what they call midday on Monday. But this is of course when Tuesday starts. Monday must therefore end as soon as it begins, to make room for Tuesday. So when midnight arrives for the second time, we make our 24-hour jump forwards from GMT-12 to GMT+12. This has the effect of removing Monday, and we’re back where we began: 00:00 on Tuesday, with the clocks set to GMT+12.
You might think moving the clock back four hours at a time is a bit drastic. Maybe it is. But it isn’t strictly necessary; all that’s required is that by the end of each day, the clock has been moved back four hours. So maybe you’d adjust it at strategic times during the day. For example just after the alarm goes off in the morning, to give you an extra hour in bed; then at the end of lunchtime, to create a two-hour “lunch hour”; then two hours at night so you can don’t have to abandon the conversation which was just becoming interesting. Or maybe only one hour at night, so you can add an hour to your afternoon tea break. The 28 hours of the day are yours to arrange as you see fit.
The supreme advantage though—present in all the solutions I’ve considered—is the timing of Tuesday, the day after Sunday. While other people are suffering Monday morning, you’re enjoying Sunday evening; while they’re having their Monday afternoon, you’re fast asleep because it’s the small hours of Tuesday morning.
The long weekend solution
Suppose, instead, you want is a nice long weekend (and still no Monday). This too is achievable, but you’ll need to nocturnal on weekdays and able to tolerate some rather extreme clock changes. In this version the four weekdays have their normal length of 24 hours, but Saturday and Sunday are extended to 36 hours each. The time zone settings for this option are as follows:
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: these all use GMT+12. Tuesday starts at what GMT people think is midday on Monday. Saturday starts at what they call midday on Friday.
- on Saturday night (or at intervals during the day), we have to move the clock back by twelve hours. By the end of Saturday, it’s set to GMT. Sunday starts at the same time as for everyone else.
- on Sunday night, we again adjust the clock by twelve hours, to GMT-12. We enjoy the extra twelve hours as we see fit, then when midnight arrives again, we switch to GMT+12, skipping over Monday and arriving at Tuesday.
Our weekend is now 72 hours instead of the usual 48, and runs from what other people call midday on Friday to what they call midday on Monday.
Or maybe you don’t much like Sundays, but you do want a long Friday in which to finish off your work, followed by a long Saturday in which to relax. In this case the pattern might be
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: clock set to GMT+12
- Friday night: move back to GMT (gaining 12 hours)
- Saturday night: move to GMT-12 (gaining 12 hours)
- Sunday night: don’t move the clock back at all, but instead move it straight forward to GMT+12, thereby skipping Monday.
Clearly there are trade-offs to be made. There are disadvantages as well as advantages to each solution. But what disadvantage can possibly outweigh the complete abolition of Monday, which is achieved merely by choosing an appropriate time zone each day?
(Ironically . . . this post was written on a Monday!)
If Monday were eliminated, why wouldn’t Tuesday just become the new Monday?