Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

I drove my son back to college this past Tuesday.  Another 13 hour round trip.  On the way home, I was struck by the beauty of middle Pennsylvania.  To my left and right were fields and farms as far as the eye could see.  Over my left shoulder, the sun was setting in a picturesque display of oranges and pinks.  And in front of me rose the blue ridge mountains.  As the commercial says; Priceless.  Let's hope our desire to tap the Marcellus Shale does not ruin this landscape for future generations.

Even though I delivered papers this morning, and extra papers at that as today was one of those "bonus" days where the weekend only subscribers get a paper as well, I still consider today as a day off.  But national holidays like Labor Day are not days off for many people.  My wife is working (her part time job) at our local pharmacy, a chain outlet.  Although only a 5 hour shift, she is still working just as our so many other people who work for chain pharmacies, as well as all the "traditional" retail outlets.  My daughter is just finishing her summer work at out local, community pool so she is working a 4 1/2 hour shift, despite the on and off again rain.  Also, I shopped at our local Giant which meant that all those folks were working today just as all those who work for supermarkets.  I passed our local WAWA and it was open; more people working on Labor Day.  Next to the grocery store, the Chinese food store, the Rita's water ice store, the local pizzeria, and the Subway were open.  Still more people working.  Yes, service industries are alive and well in America today. 

And yes, we are grateful as a family for not only the two jobs that I work but the two jobs that my wife works as well as the summer job my daughter secured this year.  And certainly, we are extremely happy that I am getting paid by my full time employer to not work on Labor Day as is my wife by her (newly acquired) full time employer.   We are in better shape that most households where little or no money is coming in and while we would have preferred to honor Labor Day by not working at all, we are not faced with home foreclosure, unattended to health issues or bankruptcy.

Still, I can't help wondering how so many middle class families came to this situation where Labor Day includes actual labor.  My parents certainly did not live a luxurious life nor did they want for life's basic necessities yet my recollection is that Labor Day featured a family gathering with assorted relatives and friends.  No one missed the backyard festivities for work. 

For those of you who are reading this and who in fact, did have today off and did enjoy time with family and friends, are you aware of the fact that you are becoming the exception rather than the norm?  Did you have to invite 20 people to get 10 to come to your party because so many worked today? 

Perhaps the problem is that in our 24/7 lifestyles, we expect "service" 24/7.  We expect the grocery store and the gas station and the local pizzeria to be open just in case we forgot something for our party or need gas for the work week or just didn't feel like cooking.  I happen to work for a service company that is closed today.   Both yesterday and Saturday, I was asked numerous times if we were open on Labor Day, and most of the time my No was greeted with a sigh or visible disappointment.  Only once did a customer say, good for you, enjoy the day off.  Have we reached a point where we take our "service" people for granted to such an extent that they have become less than people?  That we expect them to be there for us, even when we expect to have off on Labor Day.

One of the topics I have broached with my son, as well as in past blogs, is the concept of work as a source of personal satisfaction.   Do we even teach that to our children anymore? Do our schools/colleges?   If we are going to spend 40 hours a week times 50 weeks a year times 40 years (80000 hours) of our lives shouldn't we be doing something we enjoy most of the time?  Something that we can even feel proud about doing when our shifts are over?

"Everbody's working for the weekend" is a line from a well known rock song.  Perhaps if we were working for more than just the money we earn, we might be able to have our service needs supplied and still allow everyone to have celebrate Labor Day by not working.      

1 comment:

  1. Just wondering what your thoughts are on unemployment these days. Should the government really be providing 99 weeks of unemployment benefits?

    Wouldn't a system where we provide supplemental benefits to people who are taking jobs they may be overqualified for rather than people who can spend nearly 2 years collecting unemployment benefits be better for everyone involved? I think only 20 states provide benefits for "underemployed" Americans, and it seems crazy to be that low.

    When I drive through my area I see plenty of "Help Wanted" or "Now Hiring" signs, I see tons of ads on sites like craigslist or career builder, and a bunch of jobs on employer's websites. I ask myself "How can this be 9% unemployment? Why aren't people taking these jobs?"

    If you were an employer and saw someone was plenty qualified (or overqualified) for the position but had been out of work for nearly 2 years, wouldn't you question their work ethic? Wouldn't the first thing out of your mouth be: "Why didn't you get a job sooner?"

    My apologies for an incoherent rant, just figured you might have some insight on such a hot button issue for this election.