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Work/Life: Labor (Day) Pains

Labor Day is 125 years old this weekend. And the American Psychological Association is urging us all to leave the workplace behind until Monday. They did a recent survey that showed nearly one third of us have trouble balancing our work and family lives.

Labor Day is 125 years old this weekend. And the American Psychological Association is urging us all to leave the workplace behind until Monday. They did a recent survey that showed nearly one third of us have trouble balancing our work and family lives.

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They also point out that Labor Day as we know it was originally intended as a full day of relaxation in celebration of the American worker. Back in 1882, apparently, a workforce engaged mostly in factory and agricultural tasks could happily leave their jobs behind, and no text messages, e-mails or cell phone calls would arrive to summon them back to their place of business. Suggesting we all turn off our Blackberries this weekend, a spokesperson for the APA pointed out that our reliance on technology is contributing significantly to our levels of stress.

So, it sounds like we should all take a few days to party like it’s 1882. And why stop with just ditching the modern technology. Let’s go the full boat, and cast ourselves back to a simpler time. Here are a few ideas on how to effectively boost the 1882 experience:

Throw a party to commemorate 1882, in which John D. Rockefeller consolidated all of his petroleum holdings into Standard Oil Trust. Remember to hire a valet for the horse and carriage overflow, since the commercial automobile was not yet widely used.

When preparing for the above party, do not worry so much about being clean. People back then did not bathe all that often, and soap was used mostly for laundry. Sticklers for 1882 history will point out that Ivory Soap was introduced in that year, so the freshest-smelling guests at your gathering will clearly be the most well-informed. Make sure there’s plenty of t.p. in the outhouse, too.

The Hibachi is a long way from being invented, so it’s up to you how you sear the meat. And don’t even think about veggie burgers.

Similarly, shorts and flip-flops are right out. No matter how hot it is, you will probably be wearing at least three layers of heavy clothing. But, at least none of it will involve pants hanging down below your underwear. And don’t even think about crocks.

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Topics of discussion should include the assassination of Jesse James (April 3rd), the founding of the Knights of Columbus (March 29th), the outlawing of polygamy by Congress (March 22nd) and of course the Urabi revolt in Egypt (June 11th). Oh, and someone might want to make a caustic joke about natural selection in honor of Charles Darwin’s recent death (April 19th)

Guests might also marvel at the recent opening up of a railway line between Buffalo and Chicago, and, again, no jokes about not being able to take more than 2 oz. of liquid on board.

Yes, take yourself back to a time before we could take our work home with us. We all sweated and stank a lot more, and thought nothing of setting aside a couple of days to get from Buffalo to Chicago. The point is, we weren’t afraid to leave our busy lives behind, and the word “overachieving” was not yet in our vocabulary. Except maybe for people like Rockefeller, the guys who built the railroads, and Thomas Edison, who by 1882 had already taken out over a thousand patents. Given the non-stop attention to business that the big boys had back then, something tells me one of those inventions was an early version of the Blackberry.

Will you be able to kick back this Labor Day?

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