The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

Pandemic skews traditional calendar

The COVID-19 crisis implies a unique opportunity to make creative lifestyle changes in how we work, where and when North of 60 Mining News – Newsletter exclusive, Nov. 25, 2020

The fourth quarter in any given year, actually the period between Columbus Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is always an interesting period. Every eighth year (more frequently with one-term Presidencies), the interest level is enhanced by office-holder shifts. I have long thought that the reference to the Roman calendar is a little odd because it bears no resemblance to the parade of contemporaneous events.

For instance, the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. Shortly thereafter, the US government goes into a deep sleep while the budget is sorted out and program funds drift down to the respective agencies who then allocate their resources to favored programs. No one in the national government knows what they are going to be allowed to do until they actually get the money in hand.

Then comes the long, slow season crammed full of somewhat arbitrary holidays, broken weeks and seasonal distractions. Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday (which somehow ought to be a federal holiday, since no one works then), Christmas Shopping Day (which lasts for three weeks), Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa, New Year's Day and finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all occur during this the Fall-Winter quarter.

In Presidential election years, the Fall-Winter quarter is also overlain with a variety of special holidays like Election day and Rally for Your Favorite Candidate day. And, following the election, there is the full gamut of Transition days, in which everyone in Georgetown has until Inauguration day to sell their house and get out of town.

Of course, in 2020 we also had to accommodate Pandemic day, which occurred every Thursday.

The Spring quarter, between the fourth Tuesday in January and Independence Day, is sprinkled with a shorter list of totally innocuous holidays: President's day, March, Seward's Day, April, Passover, Easter, Emancipation Day #1, Cinco de Mayo, May, Memorial Day, Emancipation Day #2 (aka Juneteenth), and Independence Day all occur about then. The significance of the Spring quarter is that it is when any work that is going to happen all year gets done. The days are gray, and the slush turns into overflowing rivers and impassable roads; so, you might as well do what you are being paid for while you can.

The Summer quarter, between July 5 and Labor Day (whenever that is), doesn't really need any holidays because everyone has gone fishing then. Fortunately, most workers are able to stagger their leave so that it is impossible for the general public to know for sure whether the six bureaucrats they have to satisfy will be available.

The September quarter, essentially three weeks from the first Tuesday after the first Monday, is when all the unexpended funds allocated to the current fiscal year need to disappear. Any office supplies that will be required for the next decade have to be ordered and any furniture or flags that anyone wants, must be installed.

2020 has, of course, been a bit unusual because all of the southeast part of the US has been under an endless storm warning, the left coast has been on fire and COVID travel restrictions have slowed field work throughout the country. On the other hand, the Presidential campaigns have kept emergency services at full employment and social distancing has gratefully dampened commuter traffic.

For Alaska, the big question since early spring was who was going to do the mining and fishing if every change of location required a 14-day quarantine. It was apparent from the get-go that the pandemic posed a dramatic risk to rural parts of our state. The spread of this insidious virus was obvious and the resources for treating its victims were slim. While villagers apparently are genetically at a higher risk, the larger question relates to the asymptomatic carriers who cannot be adequately pre-screened and who innocently infect everyone in their wake. The infection rate in Alaska, associated with the current contagion spike, breaks your heart.

It is my thought that life would be much smoother for everyone if we simply recognized the inevitable. The federal budget makes the world go around, so why not start the year on October 1 for everyone. Since long weekends are the norm, we should recognize that fact and give everyone Mondays off. Four ten-hour days would make a lot more sense for all kinds of reasons. For instance, the holiday window would be much more productive if Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day were always on a Monday.

Given that mail-in ballots are now de rigueur (for which the US Postal Service thanks President Trump), in election years we no longer have to go to the polls to vote and campaign rallies can occur every weekend for the next quadrennium on Zoom.

There can be no doubt that 2020 has been a milestone year, somewhat like 1347 when the Black Death began its rampage in Europe. Those of us who survive this year will soon find ourselves emerging into a whole different world – working from home can have its rewards. Now, I think, would be a good time to revise our calendar to reflect the realities with which we live. Stay safe, be well and ...

In the meantime, "Happy Holidays!"


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