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Leaping into Leap Year

Today is Feb. 29, Leap Day, a day that only comes around every four years.

You probably already know why we have Leap Day, but just in case you don't, it's because the Earth doesn't take exactly 365 days to orbit the sun. It takes a about 6 hours longer. Instead of trying to divvy up that extra six hours over the course of a year, we just bank that time. Then every four years, when all those six-hour increments have added up to a whole day, we add it back to the calendar and make up for the lost time. It all evens out in the end.

All that science got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be nice if you could do that with other stuff? How great would it be to have a little built-in leeway that you could bank for the future?

We already do it with the penny cup at the gas station. I've put more than my share of pennies in, and I've taken a few out. Call it Leap Change.

So what else could you leap? The possibilities are endless:

n Leap Interest: Every time the bank sends me an update to my credit card agreement that is six pages of type that has to be read with the Hubble telescope I should get one point dropped off my interest rate. It's the least they can do to compensate me for the time it takes to find out that I have to start paying in Rupees to avoid a $39 penalty.

n Leap Speed: It's pretty universal that cops will give you a 10-mile-per-hour cushion before they write a ticket. Let's take it a step further. Every time a person has to sit through a Gwinnett red light more than once they get an extra mile per hour over the limit to be used at their descretion for the rest of that day. Some commuters might bank enough overages that they could be approaching the speed of sound, so we'd probably have to cap it.

n Leap Taxes: Every minute spent trying to figure out forms is another dollar we get back. Every curse word uttered while trying to do your taxes is another dollar added to deductions. Every dollar paid and every minute spent waiting at H&R Block when you finally give up doing your own taxes is worth two dollars added to your refund.

And every year the IRS takes to tell you that you messed up your 1999 return because you didn't know you were supposed to fill out line 37 b, and if you had it would have cost you $200, but since they waited two years to tell you they have to charge you interest for all that time, so you actually owe $500, which completely offsets the $300 tax rebate for 2001, and oh by the way, we'll send the notice while you're on vacation spending every extra bit of cash you have so that when you come home you have a big old nastygram from the IRS that will totally ruin what was otherwise a great week - that should be worth one year of not paying taxes at all.

n Leap Degrees: Every time someone in the office turns the thermostat all the way up as high as it will go, obviously not understanding that 86 is not comfortable to anybody, that costs them a day of not being able to touch the thermostat at all. And maybe you shouldn't touch it anyway, since you obviously don't understand how it works.

n Leap Phone Time: Every minute a telemarketer spends talking to me gets me one minute that I get to call him at his house and annoy him for no reason. (With apologies to Jerry Seinfeld.)

n Leap Spam: Every spammer who tries to get me to buy drugs online, if that person is ever caught, in addition to their jail sentence, gets one punch in the head for every spam sent. Which would probably equal the death sentence. But I'm OK with that.

n For us newspaper people, Leap Deadline: Every minute by which we beat deadline is a minute added to deadline the next day. But we'll probably start so far in the hole on that one that it will never even out.

n And finally, Leap Lovin'. It's for couples, and it has to do with arguments and making up, and if you don't understand what I'm talking about you probably don't understand Leap Year either.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.