sweet," I will say to my wife, Fidelity, as I leave the house this
"Where are you going?"
she will ask.
"To work, " Iíll
reply. "Where else would I be going on Labor Day?"
"But itís a holiday."
"Not for me," Iíll say.
"If it was meant to be a holiday, they should have called it Holiday
Day, or Vacation Day. Calling it Labor Day does just the opposite. It gets
me all charged up for work."
"Youíre really weird," sheíll
say as I close the front door.
Perhaps. But I have certain nuances
that I exercise for each holiday. At Christmas I open presents (oh, right,
give presents), at Thanksgiving I eat heartily, New Yearís Day I
watch football, and on Labor Day I work.
It seems logical enough. The fact that
my business is primarily retail and my stores are open and busy on Labor
Day might also be an influence.
Maybe thatís why Iíve had problems
understanding the meaning of Labor Day. With most retail businesses
enjoying an unusually brisk sales day, it makes sense that everyone
involved simply work harder on Labor Day Ė hence the name.
Realizing deep in my heart that I was
totally off-base with this concept, I set out last week to find the true
meaning of Labor Day. Naturally, I asked my sweet Fidelity, mother to my
four children, first.
"Thatís easy," she replied,
wincing at the memories. "An obvious day to have a baby."
Not much help there. I went off to work
and began to ask a more appropriate group Ė my employees. Surely they
must have the answers I was seeking.
I cornered Josh last week in the
warehouse, which would be closed on Labor Day. "What does Labor Day
mean to you?" I asked.
Joshís face fell. "Aw, I got
plans. You donít need me to work, do you?"
"No, no. I just want to know what
it means to you."
He looked at me like I was from another
planet. Realizing I seriously wanted an answer, he shrugged, "Day
Not everyone had the same response.
Those who were scheduled to work would shrug and say, "Time and a
Obviously, the meaning of Labor Day did
not conjure up deep feelings of anything among the supposed honorees. Only
Ralph, my general manager, had something substantial to say.
"Barbecues, end of summer,
back-to-school," he said after much thought.
"Thatís the meaning of Labor
Day?" I said, amazed at his shallow answer.
"No, thatís not all,"
replied Ralph, indignant.
"Good. What else?"
He smiled. "Day off."
Finally I asked my last hope, Ms.
Ferguson, my loyal office manager.
"Ms. Ferguson, please tell me the
true meaning of Labor Day."
A deep thinker, she took very little
time in readying a response. "Give me five minutes and Iíll get
back to you."
Sure enough, five minutes later she
buzzed me on the intercom. "Labor Day is a day to honor all the
workers of the country for their contributions to the gross national
product. It is a day to celebrate the sacrifices made by all workers for
the common good."
I appreciated her effort, but obviously
she misunderstood. "No, no," I said. "I meant the meaning
of Labor Day, not the old hammer and sickle ĎWorkers of the World Uniteí
"I know the difference," she
replied. "I was talking about Labor Day."
Oh, I still didnít understand. If all
the workers were sacrificing for the common good and being honored for
contributing to the gross national product, why did they keep demanding
raises in pay?
"Thatís the difference!"
said Ms. Ferguson, happy to have created a breakthrough. "Labor Day
is also a celebration of the advances made by the American worker during
this century as a result of the labor movement or government
"You mean the laws creating
minimum wages, workerís compensation, unemployment insuranceÖthings
Ms. Ferguson nodded as I heard the
stirrings of our national anthem in the far corner of my brain. "And
child labor laws?" I asked, wiping away a tear.
"Youíve got it!" cried Ms.
Ferguson. "Does this mean weíll be closing the stores in honor of
this great holiday?"
I was moved, but not that moved.
"No, it means I wonít moan about paying time and half."