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Archive for May 21st, 2007

24/7

The twenty-four hour grocery store. Kinko’s is open all night. Most every service company has call centers open around the clock. I delighted in knowing that I could pick up fish sticks at one o’clock in the morning on those sleepless nights.

As a former transatlantic flight attendant who lived in Salt Lake and worked in New York, my schedule was a mess. Merchants who catered to my hectic life would be the beneficiaries. “Hooray for the brilliance of the American retailers”, I told myself.

This was not my feeling when I’d find myself in Germany on the weekend. I cursed the labor unions that gave workers Sunday off. I’d rush around Wiesbaden late Saturday evening, stocking up on the essentials, such as bread, cheese and fruit, (and beer) just like everyone else.

Rogue convenience-store owners in Finland stayed open longer than labor unions desired, creating a massive public dialogue over such greed. I supported their efforts because salt and vinegar chips sustained my dietary needs.

Now, as one of those seven-day-work-week guys, I’m finding that I’ve lost connections to friends because we simply can’t find common times to socialize.

Instant messages and text messages allow me to “bump” into friends and acquaintances at any give hour of the day or night. “Are you going out?” “We should get together soon”, being so common that I can now type them faster than ever. My social life, outside of work, has been relegated to two-dimensional static images of people with whom I used to speak.

With one common day off for everyone, our lives could return to the third dimension. Americans could return to personal dialogue, physical {hugs} and the exchange of ideas that are the root of democracy.

Might not America be a better place if, for one day a week, we were to stop filling our personal voids with a trip to the mall? We measure our nations wealth with the amount of good consumed, but we’re doing little to fuel our emotional livelihoods.

I agree, it’s a tough proposition. It takes two incomes to support one home. A generation ago, it was one income, one home. A generation be for that, one income often supported a home and a summer cabin. Maybe, however, it’s because we’re placing value on the wrong things.

France has reduced working hours to 35 per week, with the recommended day off being Sunday. Finland has experimented with a 6-hour workday. Finland also pays workers 13 months of pay, annually. Sweden mandates a minimum 5-week vacation. (Interesting note is that these countries have far less crime than does the United States).

While we chase money to fund our American dream, perhaps we’re lost the very time needed to capture them.

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