Pat's View: Labor Day

By Pat Cashman

I just mailed out the last of my Labor Day cards yesterday. If Hallmark sells Labor Day cards, I’ve never seen them---so this was a job I had to myself. It was hard work, but isn’t that point of a Labor Day card?

A friend helped me do the artwork and the printing, but the wordsmithing was mine:

To an exotic dancer: “Happy Labor Day! Work it, girl!”

To a mom: “Thanks for having 13 hours of it following 9 months of pregnancy!”

To Mrs. Olson, a grade school spelling teacher: “Happy Layber Day!” That ought to drive her sufficiently nuts.

While Labor Day has been a big deal holiday in this country for well over a hundred years, it doesn’t seem altogether inclusive because it leaves a lot of people out. I mean, while the idea of the Labor Day weekend is to honor working people, what about everyone else?

Shouldn’t there also be “Indolence Day”---a holiday saluting the idle, listless and slothful who live here too? Like newspaper columnists, for example.

But Labor Day is a good time to reflect back on the occupations we’ve held on the pathway of life---a pathway often strewn with some odd co-workers. (If you cannot recall having any odd co-workers, you are the odd co-worker.)

When I was a teenager, I got on at a neighborhood supermarket one summer. Before that I’d only mowed lawns and delivered newspapers---so this was a big deal.

My first day on the job, I was shown the ropes by a strange, spooky older guy named William. I had the feeling that if William had his way, he would show me some actual ropes. He looked like he knew a lot of knots that were hard to escape from---plus, he had that certain serial-killer look about him.

“They mostly have me stocking shelves at night after the store closes,” he muttered in a low Freddy Krueger voice.

“Gee,” I thought. “Hard to figure why they wouldn’t want such a cheery guy out front greeting customers.”

Luckily, I was assigned to work the daytime shift---when William was home asleep in his coffin.

Murray, the meat department butcher, was just the opposite. He was an affable, friendly chap who sang and whistled merrily---as he hacked cow parts into sirloins, short ribs and rump roasts.

One day during our lunch break, Murray invited me to stroll down the street to a sandwich place. Along the way, I noticed Murray was still wearing his blood-spattered apron. He said he didn’t want to slop mustard on his new pants.

But my favorite co-worker was a kid my age named Jim. From the moment we met, we
spent our work hours thinking of shtick.

An example was Jim on the store’s intercom: “Attention please! Would the owner of a car with the license plate 752EET46102Q8552GDWAM0001P please move your vehicle? Your license plate is blocking the road.”

OK, it was an old gag, but we thought it was really hilarious. The store manager was not as amused, but put up with it.

Another time I announced: “Attention shoppers! There is currently a 14 cart back up in aisle 9. We recommend aisles 7 or 9 as alternate routes.”

The manager finally told me that if he ever heard me on the intercom again, I’d be back to mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. I got the message---and during the rest of my time in that first real job, I gained genuine respect for honest toil---and for those who do it everyday.

So if Labor Day isn’t in the upper tier of the most eagerly anticipated holidays of the year, it still seems like a pretty good one to keep around---and not just so stores can offer big savings on mattresses, tires and hot tubs.

Time to wrap this up. The family’s in a hurry to pick out our Labor Day tree.

Then it’s off to the egg hunt.
pat@patcashman.com

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