BECAUSE WE WOULDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE FRANCE

You're not working right now. Perhaps you're bodily at your place of business or otherwise on the clock, but you're probably not doing anything that could reasonably be interpreted as work. I suppose that's always true if you're reading this site (which, to the best of my knowledge, is neither required nor condoned by your boss) but today it applies more broadly. If you're like most Americans your end-of-year break consists of a day off for Christmas and that's pretty much it, forcing us all to go through the motions of pretending to work on the 24th.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that creating a buffer zone around Christian religious holidays is desirable. Here's the thing – like all sane people, I don't like working. We work too goddamn much in this country, and whether it's for Christmas or Zoroastrian New Year it would be nice if our ruling class would grant us a few days to see our families or, you know, enjoy our lives.

As most of us are painfully aware, employers are not required to provide paid vacation in this country. And contrary to popular belief, they are not required to give you time off, either paid or unpaid, for Federal holidays. There are only 10 such days, and only about half of them regularly result in days off for most of us – Christmas, MLK, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Unless one works for the government, Washington's Birthday is unlikely to result in an opportunity to sleep in.

This situation is, to the amazement of some Americans, uncommon in comparison to other Western democracies.

It truly is depressing to see how we stack up to our cousins across the Atlantic or to the south. We're a nation of people working harder and harder for less and less, and the merest suggestion that we should do anything other than work 9 hour days without pause until we drop dead is met with cries of socialism and accusations of malingering.

So that's why you're sitting bored at your desk thinking frantically of ways to kill time on this most pointless of "work" days. Rather than simply giving people a few days off around this time of year we respond to deep-seated protestant guilt and conditioning by making everyone show up and go through the motions. A waste of everybody's f-ing time, that's what it is. This charade makes some Americans feel more industrious and more productive; the reality of a workforce standing around water coolers, taking two-hour lunches, and dicking around on the internet for eight hours calls into question the basis of our disdain for the "lazy" nations around the world who don't follow our shining example and live joyless, pointless lives.

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26 Responses to “BECAUSE WE WOULDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE FRANCE”

  1. Ike Says:

    Here's how it is. My father and I run a small business that employs the two of is. We produce useful products from raw materials. We use credit cards to front tools and materials because the stupid banks aren't loaning a slim dime right now. We will be working every day for the next few weeks except Christmas, Sunday, and New Years. We take those days off because our sanity demands it. Meanwhile all our suppliers have been playing the holiday slack-off since Thanksgiving. "Our paint-matching guy has been on vacation, your color won't be available until next week." "That $2000 tool that would save you $5000 in the next week is sitting in a warehouse 200 miles from you but we don't want to sell it to until January 10th because our sales staff is taking a holiday."

    The entire freaking country takes the entire freaking month of December off. No wonder our economy is in the shitter.

  2. ladiesbane Says:

    Ed, if you were my customer, would you want to be charged more so that I could be less available? Am I a mindless drone for trying to do my best for my clients and my employer? Should I be bitching because I'm not spending enough quality time with my Xbox?

    The European notions of moderation, spending time with family, traveling for vacation, saving money, eating simply and sensibly…there are a lot of great things they do that we don't. Pursuing a vegetative (if not compost) state on the couch does not refresh the spirit. Profit is the issue.

    Profit is a dirty word when we talk about big businesses firing workers and redistributing workload to the survivors strictly to boost profits. Profit is the savior, the difference between life and death, to small businesses struggling to keep their doors open and not lay off workers.

  3. Amy Says:

    You're not working right now. Perhaps you're bodily at your place of business or otherwise on the clock, but you're probably not doing anything that could reasonably be interpreted as work. I suppose that's always true if you're reading this site (which, to the best of my knowledge, is neither required nor condoned by your boss) but today it applies more broadly.

    Thanks for the guilt trip… Now I am torn, continue reading or get back to work?

  4. Liz Says:

    Those of us in retail are working our asses off today thanks to those of us in office work who may have today off and have chosen to wait to do their Christmas shopping/ plan their Christmas dinner until the last possible minute.

  5. Brandon Says:

    "…the reality of a workforce standing around water coolers, taking two-hour lunches, and dicking around on the internet for eight hours calls into question the basis of our disdain for the "lazy" nations around the world who don't follow our shining example and live joyless, pointless lives."

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

  6. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bulgaria and I was pleasantly surprised by having vacations to acknowledge Bulgaria's founders who had died thousands of years in the past. In the Spring the went on vacation for weeks at a time, it was awesome. And what's wrong with a sedimentary lifestyle where I sat at cafes and enjoyed the local zagarka brews? I really enjoyed my life there… it was much nicer and more relazing than America.

  7. Da Moose Says:

    Fuck those communists and their leisurely lives. They can do so because we protect them from tyranny.

  8. Michael Says:

    Oh my, listen to how hostile some people get because Ed dared suggest that we TAKE A FUCKING BREAK AND RELAX.

    And, yeah, I'm at work today. Dicking around on the internet. I never take vacation this time of year, why bother?

  9. Prudence Says:

    Just as I remember a world when we weren't at the end of a phone/blackberry/laptop, 24/7, I also remember a world when it wasn't essential to be able to buy something/anything, 24/7. Now, I'm not a card-carrying participant in the Lord's Day Observance Society, but even I realize that giving people a proper break from their daily grind makes them more willing (and therefore pleasant and productive) employees. But hey, what do I know? When I ran my own small business, if we didn't have something on on Friday afternoons, we'd go down to the pub for "team building" time– motto: there's no "i" in team, but there are two in "martini".

  10. Andrew Says:

    I get paid double time and a half to work on Christmas and New Year's Day, and it's usually not busy, so why would I NOT do it?

  11. Chris Says:

    "the merest suggestion that we should do anything other than work 9 hour days without pause until we drop dead is met with cries of socialism and accusations of malingering."

    I have no idea when the words union, liberal, socialism or anything that doesn't benefit the richest 1% became bad, blasphemous words. It is like people are brainwashed by rightist propaganda and can't process intelligent, logical thought about issues. It is really annoying because you are dissuaded from bringing up these issues because of the negative response you will receive.

    I am a grunt for a bank, and one of the few good things about working for a bank is the holidays and vacation time. I do get two weeks paid vacation and all the federal holidays off. I will never forget when I vacationed in the US Virgin islands a couple of summers ago and met a couple from Denmark. They said they took damn near a month off and traveled to many US National Parks out West. I couldn't believe it.

  12. Nate Says:

    Actually, I'm pretty lucky. My job goes through a shutdown every Christmas-time. I'm off from Christmas until the Monday after New Year's and I get paid for it. I only had to work 4 hours today and they counted it as a full day. :)

  13. waldo Says:

    Da Moose Says:
    Fuck those communists and their leisurely lives. They can do so because we protect them from tyranny.

    Bullfuckingshit you clown. Who fucking asked the population of the US to work like slaves so as to support a bloated military the has achieved more war crimes than victories? Not the peoples of Korea, nor Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, not the people of Iraq, nor Afghanistan. Or any other of the myriad of countries which have suffered rape, torture and mass murder because of the deviously imbecilic foreign policy America has followed over the last 60 years.

    'American exceptionalism' is as ludicrous as 'president' GW Bush.
    The world doesn't want your stupid fucking miltary. Take the lot of them home and add them to the unemployment lines. Stop accepting the Nobel peace prize while pursuing military 'diplomacy' in countries all over the world and telling the world what good guys you are for working so fucking hard so as to enable drones to butcher peasants in fucking Yemen. Stop preaching from a pulpit covered in blood.

    And while your at it, stick your stupid gun laws up your ass.

  14. waldo Says:

    tyranny

    and fuck my typing skills as well. At least it's raining..

  15. Prudence Says:

    While I have heard *many* a moron intone, "if it wasn't for my grandfather, you Euro commies would all be speaking German right now" (inc one from Wisconsin who actually had a Germanic last name– oy), I thought Da Moose was kidding. Or perhaps I've come to realise that for someone who actually believes that steaming pile of intellectual horse shit, no amount of rational argument and factual analysis will change their miniscule mind; mostly because they know, deep down, they have little else to be proud of. "Let me not to the marriage of true mindlessness admit impediments".

  16. waldo Says:

    Yeah thanks Prudence, of course you're probably correct. My raddled memory has a vague recollection of Da Moose been reasonable in previous posts…I've been thinking for a while that I've become 'hair trigger' when I see that sort of shit in print. My sarcasm detector, along with many other faculties seems to be burned out.

    I picked a bad decade to give up LSD.

  17. judith weingarten Says:

    Something's wrong with your chart: We unfortunates in The Netherlands seem to get no paid holidays (admittedly in addition to our generous annual leave). This isn't true: Crypto-Communists or not, we luxuriate in 10 paid free days each year; so much so, that if one happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, we get the following Monday off. I suspect the same is true [to a lesser extent] of the UK; the chart errs.

  18. Misterben Says:

    It is certainly true that in many sectors of the US economy, there are a lot of days like Christmas Eve: "fake" working days, when nothing really gets done. (As several comments point out, small business owners and retail employees are working like crazy right now.)

    But there are a lot of things about our economy that are fake these days – fake is rewarded, in fact. Fake is easier, takes less effort, and is thus more profitable. (Two quick examples: fake banking, resulting in the so-called mortgage crisis, and fake customer service, consisting of people who hate you forced to walk you through preset responses appearing on a screen.)

    As long as we're a nation of fakers, we're not destined for anything other than decline.

  19. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Word.

    In the employee handbook where I work, it takes ten years to get the maximum vacation benefit. Interestingly, if you are upper management, it takes zero years to get maximum vacation benefit. The ruling class is always looking out for themselves… The rest of us are fucked.

  20. Elle Says:

    I suspect the same is true [to a lesser extent] of the UK; the chart errs.

    It's slightly out of date, I think. Workers get a minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday a year. (This equates to 28 days for workers who work 5 days a week, and is pro ratad for part time workers.)

    Public holidays are rolled up into this entitlement, and your contract speaks to how the time off is distributed, as public holidays are regionally determined. For example, someone might have 20 days to take off as they determine, with 8 organisation-mandated public holidays. Some employers allow individuals to work any date in the year, and to take days in lieu for public holidays they work.

  21. Entomologista Says:

    My Ph.D adviser likes to remind me that grad students don't get any time off and the fact that I can go see my family at Christmas is entirely due to his beneficence.

    I especially like how anybody who tries to improve working conditions is accused of "class warfare". Agitating for more vacation time/workplace safety/progressive taxation is not class warfare. Carting our corporate overlords down Wall Street in tumbrils would be class warfare.

  22. Wears Says:

    Waldo, on the bright side–the US military you despise so much would literally be at the top of this chart. Military members get 30 days of paid leave each year in addition to the 10 Federal holidays. So at least you've got that going for you.