The 25th hour, or: Why the work day should end at lunchtime

If there is one immutable constant in this universe, it’s that pie is delicious. But if there are two immutable constants in this universe, they are that pie is delicious and that time slows down between the hours of 3pm and 4pm Monday through Friday.

Think about it. Most people, programmers in particular, fall into a “productivity zone” beginning about an hour after arriving at work. The zone dissolves right around lunchtime, and tends to be reachieved about an hour after returning from lunch. But no matter how feverishly you pound at the keyboard, no matter how oblivious you are to the world around you, no matter how focused you are on the task at hand, a tiny, quiet little thought begins in the back of your head and gradually works its way into your main thought process. This thought is, “Gee, I must have been working for hours and hours, I bet it’s about time to head home.”

Once you finally become conscious of this thought, you will unfailingly glance at a clock and realize, to your utter and absolute horror, that it is only 3:25 PM and that you won’t be able to go home for another two and a half grueling, painful, hate-filled hours. What’s worse, you have made the fatal mistake of becoming aware of the time, so that it will now be impossible not to look at the clock at least once every ten minutes. Whereas the first part of the day seemed to zip by in a flash, the 60 minutes between 3:00 and 4:00 seem to drag on forever.

You’d swear the clock said 3:30 a good twenty minutes ago, but now it says 3:32. The productivity zone is long gone and will be impossible to reattain until tomorrow, if at all. You feel a headache coming on and make three trips to the bathroom over a ten minute span, just to give yourself something to do. You try to remember what it’s like not being at work, but you can’t seem to recall; it’s been so long that your memories have faded and you feel dead inside. You begin to entertain thoughts of resignation, of creating a spectacular scene by tipping over your desk and yelling, “I am a free man! I will no longer be a slave to my corporate masters! Also it is a beautiful day outside and I’d kind of like to go for a walk!”

Or maybe it’s just me.