Escape the Office
Working Man's Blues
Illustration by John Stricker
This has always been the best summer month, the one we all lean into the way a dog leans into a good scratch. Which is why I’d like to make a modest proposal: July should be a national holiday. Yes, the whole month.
Here’s why. This country has always been ruled by Type A personalities – which is a fine thing. Type As get things done. They’ve carried this nation. Fact is, most of us, if we’ve amounted to anything, have some Type A traits. But there’s a subset of Type As who are far more driven than the standard lot. They have so much drive and excess energy that they don’t just suck us up in their frenetic wake, they swamp us. They embody not just some Type A traits. They embody them all, the whole spectrum. That’s why I call them “Type A-Wholes.”
Type A-Wholes make honeybees look like video-game-playing stoners. Next to them, the rest of us don’t just look lazy, we look catatonic. They pride themselves on 60-hour workweeks and are as dismissive of downtime as they are of non-European cars. Thanks to them, any normal person looking forward to time off nowadays, is viewed by management the same way buzzards eye a thirsty prospector. We’ve gone from a nation that used to value leisure – think hammocks and Jimmy Buffett – to about five guilt-ridden days tethered to the office by the wireless umbilical cords of iPhones and laptops. Type A-Wholes have caused us all to keep our noses to the grindstone so long we can no longer smell our frazzled wires burning.
Not to reference another musician, but intellectually it’s as deep as I go. There’s a song called “Toes” by Zac Brown. It’s about an extended session of keeping one’s toes in the water and one’s “a#% in the sand.” I believe we could all use more of that. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, workers here get an average of just 13 paid vacation days a year, among the lowest of all industrialized countries. More than a third don’t even use all 13 days. Annually, the average American employee actually works the equivalent of one month more than 40 years ago. I’m sure there are more statistics, but I didn’t feel like looking them up.
Still, 13 days over 365? Toss in a couple at Thanksgiving, another few around Christmas and by summer, we’re barely left with enough time to properly burn and peel. Meanwhile, what has all this nonstop time on the hamster wheel gotten us? A recession. Double-digit unemployment. I seriously doubt Type Bs caused the Wall Street meltdown.
Don’t get me wrong. This is still the “greatest country on Earth,” and hard work still rules. But going too hard for too long is going to drain us dry. The well needs time to re-fill. So why not July? It’s got sunshine, baseball and 31 days. Could you imagine how rested we’d all be after 31 days? Come August we’d be just like our kids...whiny and bored and ready for the break to end. And what boss wouldn’t love to see an employee happy to return to work?
I would like to go forward with this idea. Unfortunately, as I’ve already pointed out, most of us have some Type A traits and with that last paragraph I officially exhausted mine. So, even though it’s a little like asking anarchists to organize, I now urge the rest of my fellow Type Bs and Cs (OK, C-plus’) to pitch in and help. Who’s with me?! Wooh! Yeah! C’mon!
Aw, no worries. We’ll get to it next year.