Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Wishbone To Pick

From the “I’s Had All I Can Takes, And I Can’t Takes No More” Dept.:

It is coming on toward Thanksgiving. All holidays are somewhat manufactured, after all; but there are some holidays which are purely creations of greeting-card companies. This is demonstrably not one of them. Previously in this space, I have noted with some startled pleasure that the purpose of Thanksgiving Day has not been transmogrified by the Corporate Interests into something it was not intended to be. It’s a day when, with luck, people will be able to express their gratitude for whatever they have, in whatever direction they wish to direct that gratitude – upward, or across a table, or over the phone, or using electrons.

Me, I can think of many things for which I am thankful. Gainful employment (that I enjoy doing, which is a nice bonus). Roof over my head. Dry floor beneath my feet. Knock on wood: a car that appears to want to run forever. Family that I can stand (hee hee – and then some). Friends whom I would not trade for the world … some of whom I’ve known for twenty-five years, some I’ve known for twenty-five days. And memories generated by my friendships and professional associations (often represented by the same person) to which I would similarly clutch tightly.

 

Meanwhile, from the sublime to the ridiculous: I’m not the only person, I think, who has lately noted a gradual but decided shift in Opportunities For Commerce, nearby to Thanksgiving.

For most of my life, the day after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial start of the holiday (let’s be frank: Christmas) shopping season. For me, it’s the day when I realize that for yet another year I have failed to carry out my annual New Year’s Resolution: “do all my darn Christmas shopping in April.” And it’s the day when I stay ensconsed in my house, where it’s safe … and mark my calendar with all the December moments when the malls might not be hugely stuffed with people; when cars might not be roaming the parking lots, their drivers constantly on the alert for suddenly-vacated parking spaces upon which to predatorily pounce; when cash-register lines might not resemble the queues that form when World Series home-game tickets go on sale.

A while ago, the day acquired an actual nickname: Black Friday. Curious, as that used to be the name for a really bad economic moment.

Very recently, with the assistance of viral online articles and videos, there has been a marked increase in the reporting of rather awful moments of violence, generated by people’s rush to get into stores and snag that crucial trinket before anybody else can. Peace on earth, but limited goodwill toward men. These occurrences of trampling might optimistically be understood as the result being at a department store some time in the wee hours of the Black Friday morning. Ah, I get it – people weren’t really totally awake at 4am … or 2am … or midnight. Perhaps they thought they were still in a nightmare and had to fight their way out.

Okay, probably not that.

Well, this year: wee-hours insanity problem solved, seemingly. Move the opening of Black Friday to Thursday and be done with it. And not merely to, say, dinnertime on Thanksgiving Day. That might maybe be charitably seen as a good way for people to work off all the Turkey Day fixin’s. [OK, dear readers, weigh in: how the hell DO you spell “fixings” if you’re going to leave off the last G for the sake of an accent?]

No, this year, quite a number of commercial establishments have decided that it’s a great idea to open all day Thursday.

Being as this is a free country full of free enterprise, I suppose there’s no legislation against this.

Two problems here. First, this manages to kill Thanksgiving for the people who have to open up the stores and staff them all day. I guess spending New Year’s Day or even the Fourth of July manning the cash registers might not be the worst thing in the world. But Thanksgiving Day?

Second, there are the folks in the boardrooms and corner offices who made the decision to expand the American orgy of holiday spending into the day in which people formerly merely sat, gave thanks and burped contentedly. I don’t imagine that they will be the ones that have to go in at 8am on Thanksgiving Day and dodge the invading hordes.

I know, I know. For years and years and years, the Packers and the Lions have met to play football, and that has compelled a similar legion of workers who don’t wear suits to show up to work. The concessions stands, ticket gates, broadcast trucks, and perimeter of the NFL field of play need to be attended to by somebody … so perhaps all this Thanksgiving Day activity is not utterly new. … For that matter, that ol’ Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade thing in Manhattan has been going on for eight decades now.

Perhaps I’m late to that whole party.

But when I go into department stores, I see staff members who probably are making ends meet, but in some cases barely. People who would benefit greatly from a day off, whether it’s for the purpose of gratitude or for some extra sleep. And I can even imagine that they might be the ones who’d express gratitude most effusively, in spite of the fact that they might not have that much to be thankful for materially.

I saw an online graphic yesterday that suggested that a boycott of Thanksgiving-Day sales would be appropriate. But it doesn’t change the fact that the stores will be open. Even if all of America rose up and stated, “this is absurd,” and stayed home … the advertisements have gone out. Those stores have committed to opening, and they’ll need to follow through on that promise. So when I join my family tomorrow afternoon – in a house, and not in the Electronics department – I won’t be effectively relieving all those clerks, warehouse people, custodians, and lower-level managers of their holiday work schedules.

Yes: seventeen years ago, after the Boston University Marching Band returned from its trip to New York, to march in the Macy*s parade … I was glad that the Howard Johnson’s hotel restaurant in Kenmore Square was open so a bunch of us (many of whom were prohibitively far from home that Thursday) could go have a Thanksgiving dinner together. Someone had to be on duty there, to cook and serve and clean up afterward. And we were very, very appreciative of their work.

And yes, even more crucially: there are emergency first responders and other important people who need to be on duty tomorrow … just in case somebody chokes on something, or the turkey ignites, or something equally unfortunate happens.

But that’s for the common good. That’s for public safety. That’s for the purpose of lookin’ out for each other.

The same, I think, cannot be said for offering people the chance to elbow other people out of the way en route to the 60-inch TV department on a national day of gratitude that has still managed to avoid acquiring an official mascot.

 

So: Happy Thanksgiving. Let us give thanks. And if you do head out into tomorrow’s Very Deeply Charcoal Grey Thursday sales events … spare a smile and a “hope you get to have a holiday” for the folks in the red vests or the blue polo shirts and/or the red Santa hats.

Otherwise, for them, tomorrow could be kind of a turkey.

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November 27, 2013 - Posted by | current events | , , , , ,

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