SORRY TO BE THE ONE TO BRING you bad news, but have you noticed: The weekend is over!

"Of course, it's over," you're probably muttering under your breath. "It's Monday. Only an idiot wouldn't know the weekend's over."

But, see, that's not what I mean. What I mean is: The weekend's over. Over as in finished; done with; past; gone. Forever.

Still don't get it? Well, then, read my lips: The weekend, as we knew it -- that two-day oasis we stagger toward all week long, that mirage of unstructured, restorative leisure time we wait for all week long -- has ceased to exist.

Gone is the kind of weekend when you slept late, spent the morning reading the paper and then on the spur of the moment embarked on a family outing to the country or the beach or the zoo. And gone is the weekend you spent listening to opera on the radio or having a long lunch at some cozy neighborhood tavern or baking a five-layer cake just because you wanted to.

In other words, gone is the kind of weekend when you could do what you want to do instead of doing what you have to do. For sociological purposes, we'll call it the Lost Weekend.

Which brings us to the weekend that has replaced the Lost Weekend: The Modern Weekend.

At first glance, the Modern Weekend looks a lot like the Lost Weekend: It has the same number of days, the same number of hours and it comes after Friday and ends before Monday. But the similarities end there.

The Modern Weekend has come to resemble a 48-hour marathon in which we try to get done all the family chores, the household duties, the necessary errands, the put-off-during-the-week responsibilities that pile up like a rear-end collision pointed in the direction of the weekend.

You want proof? Lucky for you, I keep a diary. Here are some excerpts:

Saturday: Alarm set for 8 a.m. Phone rings at 7:15 a.m. It's a computerized call from a financial adviser who wants to know if I'll let him, sight unseen, invest my entire life savings as he sees fit. Authentic-sounding voice but I say no. Decide to get up and get jump on day.

Spend hour or so wrapping packages to send to sons who live in faraway places with strange-sounding names. Golf clubs destined for Japan take longer to wrap than I'd planned. Get to post office and find only one clerk to serve a line of about 20 customers, all carrying odd-shaped packages and other items that take a long time to process. Still, get in and out of post office in less than an hour.

Off to the dry cleaners. Heard of a new one that sounds like it actually is able to remove stains from clothing. It's way out in country but worth the drive if only to get clothes back without those little tickets that say: "Sorry. We couldn't get this garment clean." Then head across town to the discount drugstore. Wait in checkout line for 25 minutes before cash register breaks down one customer ahead of me. Get into different line.

It is 2:30 p.m. Head back home, feed cats, head out again for shoemaker and Pet Shoppe. Shoemaker closed early. Pet Shoppe has furball medicine but all out of Grow-Your-Own-Catnip-In-A-Pot. Tempted to stop at Bagel Shop for coffee and bagel but don't have time. Have to get to hardware store before closing time and have extra keys made, then get home in time to meet meter reader from gas and electric company.

Evening spent cleaning kitchen and playing with cats, trying to fool them into thinking grass cuttings from yard are actually Grow-Your-Own-Catnip-In-A-Pot. Doesn't work.

Sunday: Get up. Eat bran muffin, go to work. At 10:30 a.m., fellow worker trudges in. I ask her what she did Saturday. She ticks off the litany: went to the grocery store, went to cleaner, went to shoemaker, worked around house, spent night working on work-related stuff. She sighs. "And this wasn't even a bad Saturday."

I finish work at 2:30. Stop at supermarket on way home to do weekly shopping. Very depressing. They've changed entire layout of store and it takes four times as long to market. Never did find the fruit juice aisle or the little carousel that holds cat toys.

Arrive home at 4:30. Do laundry and change linens on bed. Cats' noses are out of joint vis-a-vis the lack of new cat toys but cheer them up with double-helpings of Fancy Feast Salmon Dinners. Turn in at 9:30 p.m. Fall asleep looking forward to weekend -- which is only five days away.

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