A long weekend for the lucky

November 23, 2007, 2:10 PM UTC


It’s 6:00 AM, and all the world’s asleep, except it’s not, of course. The American Airlines terminal is alive with bustling humanity headed to and fro. There are lines out front and lines at Security. The magazine stores are humming. The smell of coffee and greasy things frying nicely fills the air. We are headed out.

These days, people greet each other at this time of year with vague, unspecific salutations. “Happy Holiday,” seems to predominate from Halloween onwards. This is Thanksgiving, an event with an actual name, but the whole season seems to be mutating into one long festival of food and drink and somewhat enforced gaiety. “Happy Holidays,” says the attendant at the check-in counter. “Have a good Thanksgiving,” I reply. I don’t want this day to go the way of Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday, and turn into a President’s Day with no particular significance.

Today we set down our implements, whatever they may be, unplug our minds from the vast network that is our collective brain, and head off to plug back in to other places, places of the heart, if we are very lucky, or, if life has swept us elsewhere, to places where a certain kind of welcome may be offered.

I wish all of you the best. I hope you enjoy the people you are with, do not find cause to fight with Uncle Bob about his refusal to quit smoking in the house, or mom because she cheesed out on the turkey this year and served meatloaf, or your spouse because he or she had too much to eat or drink and slept the afternoon away, or the kids because they once again refused to be cordial at the table, or mom and dad because they’re the same as they ever was.

And my heart in particular goes out to those of you now reading this who are oppressed on this holiday, imprisoned in your offices and forced to work by management that was incapable of planning things so that its workers could take these precious four days off. It’s an old story. All of us in business have endured this gulag of bad timing. We see it coming through a long way off, as travelers to Siberia must have seen the frozen tundra up ahead and known it was their destination.

Three weeks out, somebody says, “Hey, we’re planning the launch of Project X for December 1.” And everybody looks at each other and thinks, “Well. There goes another long weekend.” In this way I have seen New Year’s Eves, Memorial Days, Labor Days and countless Thanksgivings and Christmases spoiled by the workaholic Scrooges who march to their own despotic timetables not of their own making.

Wherever you are, you who labor while we rest and feast, we take a moment to raise that that turkey leg in a silent salute of tribute.

Me, I plan to take the rest of this weekend off. I’m one of the lucky ones, and I appreciate it. I may even let my BlackBerry run down.

Safe travels, everybody. Even if you’re not going anywhere.