Countdowns: It Is Time To Standardize A System

In a few weeks I will be taking a trip with my great friends. Trips like this, family vacations and special events tend to make me want to count down the days until the event. I think this is a pretty typical urge, but there is a problem with following that urge.

Decisions will be ratified by the most qualified man I know (image -

When I count down to an event that I am attending with others, I find that our countdowns sometimes do not line up. I would not think this would be a problem, since we all live on the same planet, with the same calendar. The problem lies in the fact that we use different rules for our countdowns.

I’d like your help in establishing a standard system of counting down days. Whatever decision we come to here will be sent to Count von Count who will confirm our wisdom.

A Hypothetical Situation

Lady Gaga performing on the Fame Ball tour in ...

Lady Flash In The Pan (Image via Wikipedia)

For the purpose of this exercise, let’s start with this hypothetical situation:

It is Monday, 8 a.m.. On this coming Friday night we have tickets to a concert that we are both looking forward to. If, in imagining this situation you have us going to see Lady Gaga or anyone who has appeared on American Idol, please re-imagine with emphasis on the part about us BOTH looking forward to it.

As you and I talk about the good time we are going to have on Friday night I would say to you something like “this is going to be a great show. I can’t believe we’re finally down to three days left!”

My System Of Counting Down

You might be shocked by my declaration of three days. Questions as to my ability to count might arise in your mind. Yet you realize that you’ve seen me count as high as ten on days when I am especially sharp. You’re sure I could probably go higher if I took my shoes off and used my toes. So where do I get that we only have three days until the concert?

My countdown system, which I will call the “That one doesn’t count” system results in a lower number of days to count down. Fewer days to count down equals more excitement and optimism for me. How do I achieve fewer days? Two simple rules.

  1. Any day I wake up, no longer counts.
  2. The day I am looking forward to doesn’t count.

If we apply That One Doesn’t Count to our hypothetical situation, we don’t count Monday because the sun is up and we are awake. Nor do we count Friday because when we wake on that day, it is the day of the event. There is not an exception made if the event is scheduled for late in that day. Only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday count, so we have three days to wait for our big fun

Count The Sleeps

Some people ascribe to the system I’ll call Count The Sleeps. This system is fairly self-explanatory, one simply totals the number of nights left to sleep before the day of the event.

Using this method in our hypothetical gives us a countdown of four days, one more than under That Doesn’t Count. We would have to sleep Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to reach our goal of Friday.

If It Hasn’t Happened, It Doesn’t Count

This is the least optimistic, but possibly the most fact based countdown method.

If you function under “It Hasn’t Happened…” you probably would have been convinced that I’d lost my mind with the countdown of three, because your countdown would likely be five days.

Your countdown would include Monday, because we’d have a full work day ahead of us. It would also include Friday, because we’d have all day to go through until our concert in the evening.

I think of this system as an accounting of every second until the event. Accurate and realistic? Sure. Optimistic? Not so much.

So Who Is Right?

More correctly, whose system should we standardize?

I need the optimism of dropping as many days as possible. I know that some people’s personalities dictate that they function on a strictly factual level. We all need to know we’re making ourselves understood when we talk about our future plans.

Is the proper system for counting down to an event one of the three I’ve described? Perhaps it is another one you’re aware of. Let’s kick this around and settle it, I’ve got a countdown coming up!

44 Comments on “Countdowns: It Is Time To Standardize A System”

  1. Todd Pack says:

    Here’s how I’ve always done it (meaning this is what all right-thinking Americans would consider “the right way”):

    Today is Wednesday. We’re going to the Titans game on Sunday. So, you’d count Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The game’s in four days.

    Sadly, however, I’m the only right-thinking American in my house, so things get confusing real quick.

  2. I’m with Todd on this one, Oma…your system sounds like something the federal government (pick one) might come up with to confuse people…


  3. Mike Pratt says:

    I had a boss nearly 30 years ago who often said, “The best way to kill time is to work it to death.” Under this principle, we’d just get to work and quit with the countdowns altogether. Then, the Springsteen concert would be an exciting thought out there ahead of us, and we’d just be generally enthusiastic about life knowing there are good things to come . . . !

    Are ya with me?! (enthusiastically anticipating cooler temperatures when it stops being so hot where i live)

  4. I use the count the sleeps method (although, I didn’t realize it had a name). If the concert was on Friday, you have four days… Monday – Tuesday (1), Tuesday – Wednesday (2), Wednesday – Thursday (3), Thursday – Friday (4). 🙂

  5. Blond Stranger says:

    Being the highly technological and essentially math challenged (I DO have to take my shoes off to count higher than 10) sort…I tend to follow whatever the countdown schedule of whatever technological solution I’ve chosen to use to count down tells me.

    Case in point, there’s currently 39 days left until said trip. But I get there a day before you… 🙂

  6. Horsedonkeymulezebra says:

    I’m against the standardization personally. There is so much entertainment possibility in the ambiguity…

    Imagine the person on death row. The guard comes in and says “Well Oprah, only 3 more days until your execution by stabbing squad!” (this is my example, I get to pick the inmate and method of dispatch) Now Oprah has no idea when she is getting stabbed… Is it could be any time Tues-Thurs… Or maybe Friday… Oprah would spend her remaining days never knowing when the knife wielders would be coming for her, only that they would be. In my mind that is suitable punishment for making millions of women read a Nicholas Sparks book.

    • hippie cahier says:

      I’m fine with whatever all y’all decide on the counting system. More pressing questions for me:
      Is horsedonkeymulezebra Omawarisan’s evil twin?
      When will s/he have blog that I can read and laugh at too?

      • omawarisan says:

        HDMZ, the ambiguity works for that situation, but we still need standards for those of us who have not spent years promoting that hack Dr. Phil.

        Hippie – he is the master of equine commentary and the silent explosion of comedy.

        • Horsedonkeymulezebra says:

          My example may seem harsh, especially those opposed to capital punishment, but bear with me. We often use the words “cruel” and “unusual” together when talking about punishment. I certainly can support the elimination of “cruel”, but “unusual punishment” sounds kind of interesting.

  7. Omawarison says:

    What about weekends? Which reminds me…
    14 days ’till fall break.

    • omawarisan says:

      Weekends are complex. When they are the goal, they do not count. When they are between you and the goal, they count, unless you are in the midst of one or more days of said intervening weekend.

      I’ll be still be proud of you in 14 days.

  8. There’s gotta be an iPhone app that figures this kind of thing out.

  9. Wendi says:

    Is this that New Math we always heard about in school? All I know is now my head hurts.

    • omawarisan says:

      Again, another reason we need this settled. If you were going to see Springsteen with Mike Pratt and I, you might not know what day to show and you’d have a headache.

  10. shoutabyss says:

    I love the amount of thought that you put into this. I’m a bit disappointed that I don’t see any actually mathematical formulae. If possible, please include imaginary numbers. 🙂

  11. I’ve always wondered about this. I’m counting the hours until you announce the definitive answer!

  12. If I’m going to a concert on Saturday and today is Wednesday, then it’s two days away. I can’t count Saturday, and I can’t count today. By the same token, it’s September and it’s only two months until Christmas.

  13. Brooke says:

    I don’t count the day I’m in or the day that the event is on – by that point we’re only mere hours away from getting down with our big bad selves. I have more recently though started using a computertized countdown so that I’m not confused. Like right now I know that Thanksgiving dinner is 63 days, 3 hours and 41 minutes away. I might be excited about it.

  14. jammer5 says:

    It moosed be sesame street Thursday. All good vamps come to the aid of your fellow bolld banks.

  15. Hmm…the sleeps method is definitely most popular around here. Though when I see grown people using it, it’s often accompanied with squeezing hands into fists, shaking fists, and hopping up and down to convey the excitement. This then makes me picture the person in feety pajamas with a stuffed bear under their arm. It’s not a pretty picture. So I vote that we need to standardize…however, I can’t really vote for one over the other. The sleeps method is the most optimistic, but again…it just…makes me…cringe thinking about it…

  16. jammer5 says:

    I usually quit counting after two cause then I gotta take my shoes off, and I ain’t had em off in a month.

  17. planetross says:

    Your system of counting down kind of breaks down on the Thursday before the concert: there are no days left before the concert on Thursday morning … eventhough it’s on Friday. That’s a big vast empty gray area of excitement for 36 hours or so. I don’t like it.

    I count the sleeps; it works for me. I’m not sure if insomniacs would agree with this method though … or people in comas.

  18. dottiemaggie says:

    I tend to adjust my coutndown approach depending on the situation. When I’m waiting for vacation, I count shifts of work left as my countdown. And during that last shift, I may even count hours… ;D The only downside to this approach is if there’s some days off between starting the countdown and the event… because then the countdown stands still for awhile and it feels like vacation is no closer..
    Similar approachs to anything that means the end of something.. like my last day of classes, or my last exam…
    Something like a concert, I’d probably stick to counting sleeps because there’s so much randomness to my days, but I always eventually fall asleep… I just couldn’t wrap my head around not counting Monday at 8am just because I’m awake… especially if I’m working the late shift, because Monday would be so far from over at 8am it would hurt.

    (i wouldn’t be awake at 8am if I were on the late shift, truth be told…)

    • omawarisan says:

      You may be on to something. Perhaps the solution is letting people know your method. If you measure something you might say it is 26, but then you tell people inches, meters, yards, miles, etc.. Maybe the solution is to always insert the method. We just need to abbreviate the standard count methods!

      Sounds like you work screwy shifts and days off too. 8am is such great sleeping time on late shift isn’t it? And you dont have to use an alarm clock. There are certain things I miss about night shift.

  19. spencercourt says:

    The New York City MTA probably hired you program their “day” passes.

    We bought a 7-day pass at about 4 PM on Saturday. Now, had that been, say, a one “day” pass in Vegas, we could have used it until 4 PM on Sunday.

    I of course assume there are 24-hours in a “day.” So, I assumed that a seven “day” pass purchased at 4 PM on Saturday is valid through 4 PM the following Saturday. But Saturday morning, when I tried to use the pass, the machine said “insufficient fare.” A properly surly MTA attendant advised me the first day begins (and ends) on the day you purchase the pass. (So, had I purchased the pass at 11 PM on Saturday evening, the first day would end at midnight).

    Of course, how the day is counted is nowhere to found on the ticket or at the vending machine. Why give a tourist a break?

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