With so many people unemployed and needing a job, I can't help but wonder: Why are so many employed friends and associates of mine not working this week? This brings to mind the French. They essentially close down their country in August. And I have doubts about how hard they labor the other 11 months.
None of this applies to readers of this column, of course! All of us think we work hard. Many of us do. These are productive people. The ones in touch with reality.
But for too many, it looks like holidays and various other mini-celebrations have turned a fairly regimented America into a land of people who have jobs, but with an asterisk by the word "job." Follow the calendar along with me and see if you agree that things have changed over the last generation or so.
Let's start with winter. That used to be tough for kids because there was no extended break between Christmas and Easter. The same went for my working dad and my work-at-home mother, who had to lighten up those dull days for my dad and me.
In years past, people returned to work right after Christmas and didn't get another day off until New Year's Day. Nowadays, that week between holidays is lost for commerce. Then comes the national college football championship, and along with it the following day, when many people are shaking off their hangovers.
Next thing you know, it's Super Bowl Sunday. That started as a "chips 'n' dip" gathering in the late '60s and early '70s. It's now morphed into five-alarm party fire with its own day-after of lost work production.
Lesser holidays are scattered over the following months, including spring break. Then it seems that many Americans treat the summer as a time to be fashionably missing in action from their jobs. That leaves only a few months for the country's business to get done.
The Halloween candy appears long before Halloween, and then most retail stores go up with their Christmas decorations before the Trick or Treat bag is half-empty. Thanksgiving initiates an endless string of parties and shopping sprees. Work becomes a naughty word. Even present-and-accounted-for employees often are at work in body only. Then we're back to New Year's again.
Add to that the everyday distractions of monitoring Facebook, swapping junk emails and making cell phone calls or sending texts. It's little wonder that the definition of "productivity" in America is apparently being redefined.
If you resent this column, it may be because I read like a killjoy who's grouchy and resentful that everybody else is having a good time. If so, you may be someone for whom the rest of us are having to pick up the slack.
If you resent this column because you're working your tail off instead of jetting off to Europe or the tropics, then please accept my thanks. You are one of the heavy-lifters who's likely piggybacking a lazy friend or family member on your back.
We have a federal government that's moving toward European-style health care, European-style taxation and a more European-style attitude toward everything, from international relations to immigration. (Ask the English how their immigration policies have worked out.)
With so many people still out of work, perhaps we need to redefine what "work" really is. America doesn't manufacture like it used to. Our predominantly service economy mostly amounts to everybody just passing the same dollar among themselves -- mine to you for your service, and yours to me for mine.
A nation without a work ethic will never stay strong. Maybe that's the root evil our current instability. I'll have to give that some thought at the beach tomorrow.