If you use the popular text-message service called Twitter, then you've surely seen an endless stream of messages each afternoon announcing the arrival of "420," or 4:20 p.m. This means people have begun smoking their marijuana. Yet "beer o'clock" does not come until 5 p.m.
The great statesman of North Carolina, Senator John Edwards, memorably described the dangers of our nation becoming "Two Americas." And this is the unhappy situation we have in our country today, as a "420" elite begins the afternoon's "toking" long before working-class laborers can get to the neighborhood tavern to enjoy a mug of lager.
The beer drinker, just getting by in a world that doesn't even want him to exist, sees the end of the work day as a brief respite before the next day's hardship. The pot smoker may "light up" at the law office or cable news network, while people are still expected to working.
It is common to see a gaggle of advertising executives or hedge fund managers stumble from their office lobbies already high as kites, off to sample the latest expensive restaurant or tapas bar they read about on Yelp.
The beer drinker, still carrying heavy boxes or shoveling broken concrete or whatever kind of back-breaking labor is required, seethes with resentment. When 5 o'clock finally arrives, no amount of beer can calm the rage.
Let's bring America together again. Let's push 420 to 5:20 p.m.
Bridging the class divide is not the only reason to do away with 420, of course. Some managers and executives in the "knowledge economy" actually frown upon their employees getting so stoned at work, if the employees bothered to come to the office at all. In the few U.S. states where marijuana consumption is still frowned upon, there may even be liability issues involved with a corporate headquarters full of marijuana addicts openly puffing away on their elaborate vaporizers and water pipes.
There is also the issue of Hitler. Reliable Internet legend suggests that Adolf Hitler, the one-time leader of Nazi Germany, was born on April 20, known in America as 4/20. Is it a coincidence that U.S. pot smokers celebrate April 20 as a festival of getting high? Perhaps. The American educational system is the worst in the industrialized world, and even children who don't regularly smoke marijuana are among the planet's least informed on matters of math, science, their own language, and history. But ignorance is no excuse when it comes to Hitler.
Would it not be better for everyone to do away with 420 and its associations with Hitler and other occult rituals? By changing marijuana time to 5:20 p.m., we also change Marijuana Day to May 20, or 5/20. Whatever terrible things happened on May 20 throughout history, at least we know it's not Hitler's birthday!
We live in a time of unprecedented inequality between rich and poor. Is it so much to ask that our nation's most fortunate put off their daily revelry for one hour? Perhaps such a change would dampen the simmering rage workers feel for the lucky citizens who earn five or six times' a laborer's pay.
John Edwards is no longer with us—a psychic witch took him away, along with his aspirations for the White House—but he would surely approve of this cultural change. Even if it's very difficult to get through the last 40 minutes of your easy office job, do it for those who must wait for their beer. You can always watch some YouTube or Hulu at your workspace, because time always flies when you're enjoying a favorite television show.
Ken Layne's American Journal appears every week or as circumstances warrant. Photo of drug graffiti by the author.