Friday, November 25, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like a four-day holiday weekend to start off the Christmas/winter holiday celebration

There was one moment last week when the Cook County Board was going through its excruciating process of searching for places in the county budget to cut costs when I felt like standing up and cheering.

These still-standing halls will be vacant a year from now

Except that my legs were so cramped up for sitting for hours on end that I suspect I would have pulled a muscle or done something else to seriously hurt myself.

THAT WAS WHEN the county board came up with a day they believe they can get away with shutting down the entire apparatus of Cook County government (except for those few all-hours people who work at the county hospital or for the sheriff’s police).

I’m talking, of course, about today. This unique day that comes up every single year. It’s the Day after Thanksgiving, which because that food-fest holiday falls every year on Thursday means this one comes on Friday.

Which means they both come before the Saturday/Sunday weekend that would see them take off.

The county budget for the 2012 fiscal year was balanced in part because beginning one year from now, county government will no longer even pretend that it is open and functioning on a regular basis on this day.

WHICH FAR TOO many people have either turned into an unofficial day off, or become the work ethic-equivalent of Homer Simpson if by chance they do have to show up at the office on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It seems that nothing of any practicality gets done.

So perhaps we should just acknowledge that there’s no point to the first official day of the winter holiday shopping season should be anything more – except to those people who work in the stores that are selling all those goods.

Those people get to endure a true “Day from Hades” on Friday, having to endure the crowds AND the fact that too many stores seem determined to boost their profits from the day by being open at ridiculous hours in the early morning.

BY THE TIME most of you (those of you who are sane individuals) will have read this, there will already be some people who will have started their holiday shopping (and at least a few of those people will be of the type who will be grossly offended at my use of the word “holiday” in place some something with a “Christ” in it).

There have been times in my work as a reporter-type person where I have had to work on this day, and have wound up spending it chasing down holiday shoppers on State Street or Michigan Avenue.

As though that was the only serious work being done on the day.

For even the people who are pretending to work, it seems, are just looking for a chance to step out of the office for a “break” that will allow them to do a bit of shopping of their own.

NOW, WE WON’T have to endure the sight of county employees cheating in such a way. The county will be closed on Nov. 23, 2012, except for those emergency workers who do their jobs in large part out of a sense of public dedication as much as the actual paycheck.

Which will wind up taking a hit. Because the Day after Thanksgiving won’t be a paid holiday.

The budget amendment crafted by staffers for county commissioners Jerry Butler and Jesus Garcia decrees that all workers (both union and non-union) will get their salaries reduced by 1/261st to account for the fact that they won’t be coming in to work a year from now.

It also says that managers will have to monitor their employees’ hours during the Thanksgiving holiday week to ensure that someone doesn’t wind up hitting 40 hours and getting overtime pay, in addition to the day off.

I MUST CONFESS that I despise the idea of furloughs – those days that county officials have used in recent years to get away with unpaid days for their workers. For in some cases, those workers wind up having to put in extra hours some other time to make up for the undone work on the day off.

To my sensibility, it comes across as asking workers to work a few hours for free.

Even 70 years later, State Street will have some hustle and bustle and holiday activity on Friday. Image provided by Chuckman's Collection.

But this one bothers me much less because it’s coming at a time when there just wasn’t much work being done. It’s a reflection of reality, and I’m sure it will be appreciated because it will mean that we won’t have workers trying to get themselves enthused about one more workday before the weekend – right after that day in which they stuffed themselves silly.

Better to have them stay at home. Perched in front of the television for a bit, where they can watch the overzealous (and ultimately trivial) reporting being done about all those crazy shoppers – the kind of people that make me NOT want to set foot near a shopping mall for the next month.


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