11/27/2013

Thanksgiving thoughts (possibly controversial)

Sometime tomorrow, stores that have a lot of fluorescent lighting overhead will open. The people who work there will have to be there so that people who are better shoppers than me can pay their bosses money. Somehow, both parties aren't bothered that this is happening.

The rest of us are a bit puzzled. 

I'm not angry that this is happening. I don't have any outrage that stores are looking to outdo their competition any way they can. Somehow it's all about advantage. 

I know I will be less likely to shop in any of those stores in the future. That's a personal decision, and not one I have to think about very hard. I don't often shop in any of those kind of stores anyway. 

"What do you think about all those people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving day?" said the clerk at the convenience store near my house. I've been going there for years for beer and chicken. 

"Well, I know I'm not going to shop at any of them," I said to him.

He and I don't know each other's names. We've never seen each other outside of the GoCo. We barely talk about anything, but he's always friendly and he sees me quite frequently. I know that he grew up on the south of of Carter's Mountain somewhere in the area where Donald Trump wants to build a gold course to go with his winery. 

"I mean, can you imagine a place like that even being open on Thanksgiving?" I asked. "They definitely don't treat their employees with respect."

"Well, we're open Thursday?"

"You are?"

"Yeah. Until 6." 

I felt sheepish. I just assumed they'd be closed. 

I've only worked one out of 40 of my Thanksgivings (including the one I spent in Canada, which was technically six weeks earlier). At the time I was 21 and living in Blacksburg. This was the first Thanksgiving I spent without my family, and I decided to work at Backstreets, the first restaurant I ever worked in. 

It wasn't that bad. The owner decided to stay open. There was potentially money to be made. I didn't think twice about it.

I ended up having a lovely day, and the owner fed me and let me drink after work. I did him a favor, but I also didn't have anything better to do. I profited off of the desire for some people to go out to eat on Thanksgiving rather than cook at home. Most of the parties were couples. Very few families. They all went home happy. 

The clerk at the store will work tomorrow but he will be off at six. People still need to buy things. 

Without thinking, I assume that Thanksgiving should be one of these perfect holidays where all economic activity stops. After all, I want to be able to concentrate on myself and not my role in a consumer-based economy. 

But, I also know that many of my friends will be working at bars tomorrow night, happy to take money from people who just want to enjoy the holiday. Movie theaters are open, as are gas stations, nursing homes, hospitals, radio stations, newspapers. Many people are working today. 

So, why are we so upset that big box retailers want to try to take some advantage of a day when people are off of work and primed to spend for the next big holiday? 

Good question. 

I don't have an opinion. I don't need to have one. It's very comforting, in a way. I neither work at those stores nor plan to ever shop at one. That is the entire extent of the effect my opinion has on the world with regards to this topic. I just like raising questions. 

Then again, I don't really spend a lot of money on Christmas, except on my parents and my children and a few friends. I don't feel pressure to do so. 

I'm also not much of a consumer. My house is largely furnished through hand-me-downs and items I found on FreeCycle. My daughter thinks I am cheap because I have old-fashioned media players such as a 19" bulky television. Little does she know that she'll more or less be playing PlayStation 2 games for the rest of her childhood because they're affordable. 

I am thankful that I am not that good of a shopper, and not that concerned about this issue. There are so many things to be concerned about. I won't list those, and I won't list my own. 

None of us are anyone else but ourselves. Everything we get from other people and from media influences our lives. But, we get the chance to form our own opinions. Sometimes these opinions are forged by media, sometimes by our friends.

In the month to come, I plan on writing a lot about how I feel about journalism and writing and affecting the world as one person out of 7.5 billion. I don't know how much of it will be public. I am just struck that so much of how I feel about the world comes through experience not filtered directly by me. I am also paid to sift through information and write articles based on what I research. I want to write stories that anyone can pick up and say that they understand the basic government process I'm trying to explain. 

After I realized that the GoCo clerk was going to have to work on Thanksgiving, I went in a second from being outraged that certain stores are opening tomorrow to take advantage of consumer demand to realizing that I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I am not supplying any of that demand. I suppose I could advocate against people spending money there, but I'm not much of an advocate for anything. 

I'm an explainer, not a persuader. 

The clerk will work tomorrow, and hopefully he'll get compensated for it some other way. I do not envy the people who have to work tomorrow, but what's so special about a holiday anyway? That's a direct question not laden with anything else. What makes a holiday a holiday? 

For me, I love the fantasy that we're all off work but in reality that's not possible. There are 7.5 billion people in the world. 310 million in my country. 8 million in my state. 150,000 in my metropolitan statistical area. That's a lot of people who are just like me. 

I give thanks that I still have hope that we can figure out better ways of communicating, and educating, and building a better economy, and basically improving how our species does things. 





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