Will Durst
Will Durst

Happy Labor Day

By - Sep 5th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo by the Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library via Flickr

Poor Labor Day — it gets no respect. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of celebrations. The runt of the holiday litter. Just hearing the name conjures up depressing images of a last plastic souvenir sports bottle of lemonade poured on the dying charcoal briquettes of summer. It’s the end of the bright light and the beginning of the darkness. Vacation is over and the fun has expired.

Photos by Brian Jacobson

White shoes are put back in the closet and storm windows taken out. The watermelons in the produce bins are replaced with pumpkins. Swimming pools get drained and ice cream trucks convoy back into their garages to hibernate. All the red, white and blue motifs give way to orange and black. The solstice is dead. Long live the autumnal equinox.

As a kid, I was too busy running from the shadow of school’s return that signaled the end of my freedom to pay much attention to the meaning of the holiday. And when I did, it made no sense. Honor work? Who would do that? Might as well set aside a day to venerate broccoli. I thought of work as a thing to be avoided, not celebrated.

But then I entered the real world and desired things, like food and shelter and clothing and gasoline, which forced me into gainful employment. And it was surprisingly enjoyable. Not the getting up at 4 a.m. part, but the fruit of accomplishment deal. Got my social security number at the age of 12. Held over 100 different jobs. Then in 1981, I was able to earn a living at my chosen craft, making me an extremely lucky man.

Photo by House of Sims via Flickr

Without labor, we would still be nomads, boiling river water to wash down our nightly meal of beans and mush and roots and moss. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

From the people who brought you the weekend, not to mention the 40-hour work week and the lunch hour and the smoke break and the potty run and the punch-clock-dash.

Our society’s love affair with the genetically blessed can get tiresome. The rich and the beautiful and the fast and the strong. The lucky sperm club. That’s why it’s important to have this one 24-hour period to honor ordinary Americans. Real folks who don’t think “work ethic” is a dirty word. Or two dirty words. Or whatever, you know what I mean.

No, there’s no fireworks to watch or ugly birds to cook or chocolate covered bunnies to steal marshmallows from. Just one Monday off for all those regular guys and gals trying to make ends meet; raising 2.3 kids while juggling a mortgage and trying to cover the monthly cable bill with at least one premium channel thrown in.

One day to celebrate what it is that we do for a living by taking the day off from work. Paying tribute not to some dead presidents or a religious fertility ritual or the valiant who have fallen defending democracy, but to us — the true American heroes. The ones who keep democracy alive and shaking and moving and growing. You and me.

All right, fine. Mostly you. Happy Labor Day everybody.

Will Durst is a San Francisco based political comedian who writes sometimes. This being an example. His new CD, “Raging Moderate,” now available from Stand Up! Records on iTunes and Amazon. Coming early next year: “Where the Rogue Things Go.”

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