A few years before my father passed away in 2006 I was driving down the street with him in Salt Lake, taking him to lunch.
"Where the hell do all these people come from in the middle of the day?" he asked me as he surveyed the traffic with his near 90 year old eyes. "Don't any of them have jobs?"
I kind of smiled about that comment. It made sense to him; he had worked on our farm all his life and seldom left it during the day except to do some kind of business. And I am sure when he was my age in the 1960s the traffic patterns were much different during the day than they were when he asked me that question.
"Well Dad," I said. "A lot of people have jobs that take them from place to place so they have to drive. Also there are people that work nights so they are out during the day, some may be on vacation from their work, some have jobs where they work flexible hours and then there are others that don't work at all."
"How would you get by in this world without working?" he asked me.
"Well some people just have money," I said. "Others, I suppose can live off others."
He just sat there. And then he spoke.
"Well it just isn't right all these people out in the middle of the day," he said. "It just isn't right."
Ever since then I have thought about his reaction. At the time, I thought it was kind of funny. He came from a background where if you weren't working with your hands you may not have really been working at all. And the only way to work with your hands would be to be at the workplace.
But since then I have been thinking and maybe he had something there. Where do all these people come from that are driving around at 10 a.m. in the morning when the roads are full of cars?
It seems our society has a kind of mental double standard about work and work time. Let me give you some instances I have seen concerning what people think about other people working.
Listen to the Salt Lake televisions stations and you can hear it a lot. Let's take a line from a Tuesday night weather forecast for instance.
"Going to be in the 60s tomorrow so you should go out golfing for 18 holes. But you better take jacket, just to be sure," says a weather person.
Like my dad, I am wondering beside the rich and those that are retired, who the hell has time to play 18 holes on a work day?
You can hear the same thing from the same people when there is fresh powder at the ski resorts.
"The sky is clearing and there is 10 inches of new powder at Alta," they say. "You all need to go up and ski tomorrow."
I keep wondering if the weatherman will give a note that I can give to my boss to excuse me from work to go skiing.
I also get irked about so called holidays. People on television often talk about the three day weekends that people can take.
"They are going to have a big St. Patricks Day celebration in downtown Corrinne this weekend and it will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Come on down here on Friday and see it."
Like every Friday is a holiday we can take off work.
Then there are holidays like Columbus Day. Federal employees are off work, but who else?
The other thing that has happened to our society is that the public schools have built in so many holidays and days off for kids, it seems many of them have a hard time adapting when they have to move into the world of work. And that is particularly true in jobs where working on almost all holidays is a requirement.
Over the years when I have worked both in education and in other government jobs. I also have had a lot of time in private business as well. After 12 years of public education, and four years of higher education, many youngsters just want to stay on their school schedules. They want every holiday off, and a lot of time in the summer. They want to be able to play hooky from work when they want to go skiing or snowboarding and they also want a spring break.
Well in private business you have to earn it. Seldom does an employer let you off to go skiing in the middle of the week unless you have been there for some time and have earned the time off, and it works for the business. In retail and other businesses holidays are the busiest days, so you may need to work while your family eats watermelon in the park on July 4.
In the news business, when something happens, it happens. You go out and cover it. I have had family birthday parties on a Sunday afternoon interrupted because someone ran off the road in Price Canyon. One time my sister was visiting from Texas and I was off of work to visit with her when a fire blew up in Willow Creek Canyon. I went because at the time no one else could.
Leisure time is important in our society. We all need it. We keep being told we worker harder and longer than the Europeans and many other cultures. Then in the next breath they lay on the guilt and say we don't work as hard or as long as the Japanese.
Maybe I have just worked for too many years to change my ways. Maybe I should get more laid back and less intense about working. But from the time I was small all I saw was my father toiling away, six days a week and then for at least six hours on Sunday, milking cows on our dairy farm. I think it is inbred.
When (or more likely if) I retire will I be like my dad and wonder why there is so much traffic "when people should be working."
Some describe Utopia as a place where no one has to work. To me, Utopia is a place where everyone works their fair share, and then gets time off.
Seems simple and fair to me.