August Already? Did You Forget To Take Vacation?
It's the third week of August. Have you taken a vacation yet?
That’s what I thought. Neither have I. And we're running out of daylight.
Prepare yourself. Any minute now newspapers and magazines will be full of stories that mock Americans for not taking enough time off. We should be more like Europeans, they say. Those people hardly ever work. Look how happy they are!
It's already started. My favorite so far this summer, is this bizarre piece from Business Insider: “The Average American Worker Takes Less Vacation Than a Medieval Peasant.”
In a clumsy attempt to make Americans sound like drudges and wage slaves, the writer claims that 14th century serfs had more leisure time than we do. They got at least eights weeks off, she claims. Sometimes half a year.
What the author fails to mention is that life expectancy during the good old days of lice and leprosy was about 33 years. Plus, workers needed time off to head to the local bloodletter to balance their humours and lance their buboes.
She suggests that we could be as happy as our toothless Medieval ancestors if only the federal government mandated some type of vacation and our unions were stronger.
All right, I will admit that growing up, my family took more vacations than I do now. Perhaps that’s due to air conditioning.
If you lived - as I did until I was 16 - in a tiny, un-air conditioned brick rancher, you were dying to get in the car just to catch a breeze as you blew down the highway with the windows down.
We baked in that house.
So we always took a two-week trip. To cool off. Occasionally we rented a beach house with another family. Usually we borrowed a neighbor’s tow-behind-the-station-wagon camper and set out to explore America's campgrounds and poison ivy patches.
The farthest we strayed from home was Yellowstone. Shorter trips took us to New England, Virginia, Niagara Falls, and Cooperstown, NY. Yep, the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There were no cell phones or laptops, so there was no thought of my parents bringing any work along with them. Not that they had the kind of jobs that required them to take work home at night anyway. My dad worked for a steel wire manufacturer and my mother was the drive-in window teller at our local bank.
Vacation was pure family time. I’d like to tell you that it was Norman Rockwellian but in truth it was, well, time with my family. We tended to get on each other’s nerves rather quickly.
I remember the giddy anticipation, the colorful road maps and the fun of the first couple of days. That was always followed by sluggish misery at the end of the trip as we turned our Ford station wagon and camper toward home, sick of each other and sick of the license plate game.
One homecoming was different, however. I was about 10 and I've never forgotten it.
We were returning from an uneventful trip to New York’s Finger Lakes, I think. As we crunched into the driveway about 2 a.m. we heard shrieks from a few houses down.
Suddenly, Mrs., oh never mind, not going to say her name because she may still be alive, although I seriously doubt it since she barely made it to 30, was running down the street.
Behind her, was Mr. Never Mind with a butcher knife.
My mother tried to hustle us into the house but I slipped away, running through the wet grass to take in the spectacle.
I remember how white Mrs. Never Mind’s bare feet were as she sprinted past our house. How Mr. Never Mind’s blade flashed in the moonlight.
Suddenly, on cue, the fathers burst out of nearby houses (no air conditioners to drown out the screams) and tackled the knife-wielding man. He was drunk, of course.
Our town had one cop. I don’t believe anyone called him.
It was a strangely satisfying ending to a two-week trip. Makes me long for another vacation.