Labor Day USA

September 3, 2012 — Leave a comment

It’s Labor Day in America and officially the last weekend of summer frivolities. The public swimming pools will close, the endless repeats on television will be replaced with a new season of inanities – many of them reality programmes that show just how far from reality most of us have travelled, and of course the whites (but not your undies) have to be packed away.

Or that’s what I thought until yesterday when Joy Sewing, Fashion Editor for the Houston Chronicle, assured us that was an old chestnut to be tossed up to the firmament along with all the other space junk.  In case we find it hard to wear white in the face of decades of social history, Ms. Sewing suggests we ease into our newfound fashion freedom with a white handbag or a pair of shoes, rather than an entire ensemble.

Also in the paper was an article from the Chicago Tribune discussing productivity versus vacation time taken.  A number of worthy employees of various companies were quoted as not being able to remember the last time they took a day off. Excuses range from too busy, to anxiety at the plethora of emails awaiting their return, to fear of an employer realising they were superfluous to requirements.

On arriving in this country, the twelfth on my list of nation’s lived, I was incredulous to find that my husband was expected to be happy with 10 days vacation time. He wasn’t and it was increased to 15.  Still pretty miserly for a man who had given 25 years of sterling service.  A number of years and companies later and it has increased to 20 days, an acceptable time off to recharge the batteries in whatever increments chosen.

And yet, at a recent function I happened to be sitting next to the VP of HR at my spouse’s current company.  Mentioned in passing was that he, my husband, was one of the few of senior management to take their full vacation time.

“More fool them,” I said. “How can people give their best when run down, not just on the big issues, but also by the day-to-day humdrumness of work?” I asked. “People keep giving and giving, and then we wonder why men and women drop dead from a heart attack in their prime.” I was on a roll. The VP, a charming man for whom I have a great deal of respect, was looking a little shell-shocked, in need of a vacation maybe.

All employees no matter their level or sector should, I think, be encouraged to take their full vacation allowance, if for no other reason than they make better employees not to mention spouses and parents. Spending lazy days with family whether on an exotic island or in the backyard are the times our children remember and it is those times which create the bonds that help hold families together, which as the circle closes encourages productive people.

Why do the “mow, blow and go” men have to spend their Labor Day tidying the grounds of the apartment next door? Quite apart from them not being with their family and friends on a public holiday, their noise and activities are intrusive to those who may wish to relax.

Why, I wonder, do we feel we have to go to the mall on Sundays or public holidays? I am to blame, along with the vast majority, in perpetuating this need for 24 hour, or at least 12 hour opening. Are we so unable to take time off that, apart from emergency services and hospitals, we can’t have more than a few days a year where businesses are truly closed? If all this labour were creating employment for those longing for a job then I could understand it, but it seems it is the same people working longer and longer hours – to the detriment of their health, happiness and productivity.

I will continue pushing my spouse to take his allotted vacation time and, in celebration of Labor Day 2012, I am considering boycotting shops on Sundays.  But then I like the fashion editor’s suggestion of white accessories to ease me into defying a long-held tradition. I hope I can wait until tomorrow before heading off to Macy’s to purchase both – I mean really, who can buy shoes without the bag?  I’ll need them for my next holiday.



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