Well, here we are. It's Thanksgiving week, and the world is up in arms once again over what's becoming known as the Black Friday creep. Or, as some would call it, Black Thursday. There's talk of boycotts on behalf of the American worker wrested from their turkey daze to sell pieces of plastic made in China dirt cheap.
America? Let's get a grip. Dialing back Black Friday to begin on the holiday itself is hardly the outrage it's being made out to be. On behalf of a family where "working the holiday" is par for the course, let me just say welcome to the club.
I couldn't help but note the irony this morning: Just above one of the Reason for the Season rants from one friend refusing to go out and shop on Black Thursday because she thought people should be home with their families was a some-e-card that said the following:
I work long hours. I wear bodily fluids that aren't mine. I work weekends and holidays. I get screamed at and have my hands in other people's orifices. Tell me again how hard you work?
Not surprisingly, that was posted by a maternity nurse. Because, of course, babies don't stop coming on Thanksgiving.
In fact, America does not stop functioning on Thanksgiving. And because we all depend on the conveniences we are so lucky to have in this great nation, that means people work on holidays. A lot of them.
I was raised in a household with two working parents. My mother was a nurse. There were holidays she worked, and some holidays where she was lucky enough to have someone else cover her shift. My father, the self-employed refrigeration and air-conditioning contractor, was not so lucky.
There was no one to cover for him. If he didn't go when the call came, he didn't get paid. If he didn't get paid, that was that much less money to buy groceries and clothing for his two children.
Today I understand even more why my parents left to work on the holidays because my husband does the same. We haven't had a New Year's together in years. He works the holiday. Every. Single. Year.
When the rest of the staff at his company gets an early dismissal for a holiday, he is stuck behind because -- contrary to what many believe -- computers do not run themselves. And if there's a problem in the computer room on Thanksgiving Day, guess who leaves his wife and child to drive into town and deal with it?
It's happened more than once. And on other holidays too.
Our family is not alone. We are there with the cops and firefighters, the nurses and doctors, the dairy farmers and the emergency gas man. We are there with the convenience store clerks who ring up your gas purchase as you drive over the river and through the woods. We are there with the waiters and waitresses serving turkey and stuffing to folks who just didn't feel like cooking this year.
Do I understand why moving to Black Friday to Thursday seems like an affront to American values? Sure! It's sad that people are so caught up in shopping that we need an extra day to do it. Materialism is hardly our best quality, folks.
And yet, what does it say about us that for years we have taken for granted all the other people who work on holidays, that we have enjoyed the fruits of their labors as if it's "no big deal" because, hey, it's great that they make our lives easier? What does it say about the value we put on those people and their families?
One might say that we don't "need" to go out shopping on the holiday. They'd be right. But then, does one "need" to go out to eat? Couldn't the waiters and chefs stay home? Couldn't moms home birth so maternity nurses could be with their families? Couldn't we plan ahead and fill the gas tank on Wednesday?
We could do all of these things, but we don't want to. We are a country that depends on give and take. We are a country where people work to provide conveniences for others. In return they are paid a wage, which is spent in the economy. They spend on conveniences. They enable this whole country to keep on spinning.
I'll say it straight out: it sucks to have someone in your family work on a holiday. It's a pain in the butt to reschedule family meals. It's a hassle when your husband up and leaves when you could use an extra hand to stir the cheese sauce for the cauliflower.
But the benefits are pretty darn good. The mortgage is paid. So is the cable bill so he can call up that DVR'd football game. We have food to eat this Thanksgiving, and money to spend on holiday shopping. We are blessed, and I'm thankful for that this holiday. I'm thankful that my husband has a job where he has to work the occasional holiday. It's better than having no job at all.
Will you take advantage of the Black Friday creep or are you boycotting?
Image via jbhthescots/Flickr