[Originally published June 12, 2005.]

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Dear Eight-Hour Workday,

Before I was hired at a 9-to-5 job, I had no idea how long you were. I skipped along blissfully through life, never questioning the sanctity of each moment. The phrase “9 to 5” was merely a metaphor for “people who have real jobs.” Now that I have arrived in this world of suits and scheduling, I know the truth. Eight hours is an eternity.

I have decided that, with the amount of people in this country working eight hours a day, this society should be much farther ahead that it is. We should have flying cars that are fueled by used cooking oil from McDonald’s. We should have a creative and well-funded education system. We should have universal health care.

What if you devoted eight hours a day to something like origami? To working out? To learning? You’d be the smartest, buffest paper folder this world has ever seen.

Granted, when we say “eight hours of work,” we don’t really mean eight hours. There’s the time it takes to take off your coat and say hello to co-workers. There’s walking from the desk to the water cooler. There are at least seven or eight bathroom breaks a day. And we mustn’t forget sustenance. Shoot, when you think about it, an eight-hour day really comes down to a good four hours and 54 and a half minutes, give or take.

I guess I’m ignoring part of the equation here, and that is that, as human beings, we are not capable of concentrating on anything longer than The Legend of Bagger Vance, let alone eight hours. If a writer sat at a computer and worked on a novel for eight hours nonstop, she would have a whole lot of crazy in the end (not that I would know). There are limitations on the human mind and body that must be addressed. If a person needs a Minesweeper break every hour on the hour, then, by God, it’s about time for the next game.

I’ve strayed. The crux of everything I’ve said here today is that eight hours is a freaking long time. In my day so far, I’ve e-mailed several people, applied for a credit card, done a few things for work, and written this letter. I still have four and a half hours to go. I guess that means I still have several bathroom breaks to cash in.

Olivia Roth