Of all the holidays I pretend to ignore, Labor Day is not one of them. Frequently as an adult, I’ve had to work on holidays, and so a day off is a wonderful thing, let alone a three-day weekend.
(Those themselves were sparse for a number of years as well when I worked on weekends.)
In 1887, Grover Cleveland established the first Monday of September as the official celebration of hardworking everyones everywhere. This was deemed of such great historical importance that a muppet was named after him.
(I made that up. Check their pictures; they don’t really look anything alike: Grover Monster is blue, and Grover Cleveland is black and white.)
I tend to celebrate Labor Day by doing a lot of work that needs done around the house that I put off because of being too busy at work away from the house. So far, I’ve done two loads of laundry, sprayed the yard for weeds, trimmed the things in the yards that aren’t weeds, built a circular little stone wall around something in the yard that might be a weed but I’m hoping is a burgeoning tree, replaced an electrical outlet that the previous owner had cleverly painted over, preventing its use and increasing energy savings; and bought a filing cabinet for five dollars that I need to now find a place for in my office.
Like most people, I’ve been working most of my life. Growing up on a farm required it. I didn’t like farm work, and couldn’t wait to get away from it. Even if it was only for a few hours on weekends at a part-time job.
(Granted, a job was work that needed to be done as well as farm work, but somehow it felt different.)
I landed my first job when I turned 16, working weekends at a radio station. I don’t remember my interview or being hired. All I really remember is that it was my first time being allowed to drive alone, and on the way home I accidentally hit and killed a dog while it was being walked when it jumped out in front of my car.
(The owners said it wasn’t my fault, and that the dog was old, and had never done anything like that before … but I didn’t feel any better.)
Radio work was not nearly as glamorous as I had envisioned, but still had a certain charm, mainly because none of my friends in school worked at a radio station. For a long time, I wasn’t allowed to talk on the air, but eventually I was given the task of reading the obituaries on Sunday morning.
Glamorous, indeed. I was paid minimum wage, which was $3.35 at the time. But I enjoyed it, and I kept that job until I left for college.
After a few years at college, circumstances let to me needing to work again to help pay my way to a diploma. Once again, I found myself working at a radio station. This time, it was the most popular station in the area, and I was working full-time.
Five days a week. Eight hours overnight. Going to school in the day time.
I think both the job and my school work suffered. But I was suffering as well, because the country-western format of the station was really not to my liking, and at night I was only allowed to have one light on, no fans, and could only use headphones, because the owner of the station lived in an apartment above and if it was too loud or bright or breezy he’d stomp on the floor.
I worked there for two years, until I decided I really needed to concentrate on my school work if I wanted to graduate at the end of my six years at the university. I haven’t worked in radio since.
I’ve had many different jobs over the years. My first job after earning my degree was dishwashing at a restaurant. My second job out of college was dishwashing at a restaurant.
My third job out of college was cooking at a restaurant.
(When you end up with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and photography when you’re not exceptionally good at either of them, like me, there wasn’t any job that I would have turned down.)
I’ve done practically every job there is at a number of different newspapers; I’ve worked in print shops; I’ve worked in hotels doing everything from housekeeping to desk clerk and beyond; I’ve worked doing computer repair; I’ve been a paid actor; I answered phones at a catalog store taking orders; I’ve been a paid songwriter; I’ve even worked as a bouncer at a dive bar.
(In retrospect, that was one of the most amusing jobs I’ve had, mainly because of the number of times I was threatened with bodily harm by a hooker. But those stories are for another time, and probably a different audience.)
I’ve heard the saying that one should work to live, not live to work. But I’m not good at being an idle person, and I think a lot of people feel that their career is actually a big part of who they are – there are reasons we are good at what we do, because we tend to leave jobs that we’re not good at or dislike, and like it or not, the work we do often heavily influences the life we lead and the people we are.
(For instance, some people are good at coming up with silly little sayings (“Work to live”, etc.) that end up superimposed on pictures of mountains and sunsets, printed on posters that hang around other people’s places of employment where they’re generally ignored. Or defaced.)
But no matter how much a person loves the work they do, an extra day away on a weekend is a wonderful thing. Even if that person ends up doing some sort of other work at home.
Somehow, most of this three-day weekend has managed to get away from me. Probably because I like to block yard work from my memory. But there’s still one day left.
I think I’ll celebrate this year by trying not to think about working or work that needs to be done.
I’m hoping to make both Grovers proud.