Faux Holiday: Memoir of a Slighted Laborer

21 Sep

 

Happy Labor Day?

 

I know I’m late.

Exactly two weeks have passed since our nation celebrated the day that marks the end of summer, serves as a great excuse for barbecue, and. . .oh yeah, toasts the American worker.

 Not all workers, apparently.  For on that faithful Monday, I was among about 4.8 million Americans who spent the day crafted in our honor trailing frenzied shoppers seeking the holiday deals.

 And two weeks later, I’m still peeved.  It was enough to rouse me from my blogging slumber and make me take to the keys once more.Working holidays is not unfamiliar to me.My part-time gig as a sales girl has meant spending every national holiday indoors, behind a cash register, parroting “How may I help you?” while the rest of country reveled in idleness.

How May I Help You?

The intimacy between holidays and spending dictates that those of us populating the retail world toil while the rest of the country rests.

But for some reason, working September 6th was different.

For some reason, spending that day awash in the scent of new clothes and old money seemed cruel and ironic.It’s funny.  I spent the last 21 years of my life simply embracing Labor Day because, frankly, it meant a mandatory break from school.  Never before had I questioned why I was off or what I was celebrating.  Now that the freebie has been seized, I’ve been driven to look beyond the surface–and wonder what the heck the day really means.The federal holiday originated in 1894.  Its purpose?  To appease the masses of disgruntled American workers after a wave of riots laid the blood of dozens of workers on federal troop hands.

Pullman Riots

It was a heated time.  One in which the average worker spent 12 hours a day working seven day weeks.  One in which child labor was common and hazardous working conditions were prevalent.

And the people

were becoming fed up.

The riot in question erupted because a boycott by railroad workers had halted railway service.  Federal troops were sent in to end the crippling boycott and coerce the workers back to work.  The results were deadly: Labor Day was the child of this unrest, a public relations event birthed as a peace offering to American workers, who had petitioned Congress for a day in their honor for the past 12 years.

Workers Shearing Sheep

Like most holidays, today, the date has been watered down to simply another day of consumption.

Another day of excessive shopping, drinking and eating.

As one can guess, retail and its workers are a central part of the festivities. So, from behind my glass box, as clients weaved back and forth in the land of clothes, I realized that salespeople will never be able to truly celebrate Labor Day. It’s our lot in life to fulfill the American dream for those who eagerly thrust their bills into our hands in exchange for the items of their desire.

As American as Spending

So instead of the day off, I ask the sales gods for something  a bit more practical: A bonus dollar or two an hour for everyone who works on their day of appreciation.

Here’s to having a job to whine about.

Until next time. . .

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