One year ago, it was 15 degrees colder and the thermostat on my furnace had died. My daughter called to wish me happy Thanksgiving and wound up trying to troubleshoot my problem from 1500 miles away. I had very little money and the prospect of fixing what was wrong scared me to tears. Friends called and invited me to dinner, loaned me a portable heater and bestowed a small gift on me that I could at least get the thing looked at on the day after Thanksgiving.
Today, I am warm. The furnace works just fine. My finances are a bit better in that, if the thermostat quit working, I could fix it on my own. (Knocks quickly on wood.) So much has changed for the better in small ways.
I'm going to write a mini screed here, so this is your warning to get out now. Let me drag my soapbox over here and get up on it. Darned these painful knees.
Over the past week, I've received countless emails and Facebook posts decrying the decision by Target and other retailers to open at 8 p.m. tonight. "Sign the petition to let Wal*Mart workers stay home with their families on Thanksgiving Day!" These petitions or photo posts usually come with a photo of some troops in the Middle East.
I understand the feeling. It used to be, not so long ago, that Thanksgiving Day was partially sacrosanct. Retail establishments just didn't open on Thanksgiving Day. "People", that nebulous word that some take for "all of us", should be home with our "families", bowing our heads in prayer for the bounty before us. There is a very Norman Rockwellian attitude at work here.
I'm going to pop that insular bubble of Eisenhower-era perceptions. I'm not going to talk about how people of other races, creeds or genders celebrate or even DON'T celebrate this day. And what of those for whom a bag of Cheetos and a can of soda is a dinner? I won't go into that.
What irritates me is this "People should be with their families on Thanksgiving." As I took the recycling to the can, I heard sirens to the west of me. Oh dear. Someone needs assistance. I hope it's not a fire. I hope it's not a life-threatening medical emergency. But thank goodness police and firemen are working on Thanksgiving. If it's a medical emergency necessitating transport to the hospital, thank goodness EMT's work on Thanksgiving. Thank goodness there are doctors and nurses and technicians and hospital support staff working on Thanksgiving. If you're traveling to Aunt Marie's and Uncle Peter's, thank goodness there are a few gas stations open with people who are working on Thanksgiving. If I have a problem with my computer, thank goodness there are help desk people working on Thanksgiving. If grandma is in a nursing home, you probably haven't given one thought to the staff that's there today, people like my sister-in-law, who work on Thanksgiving.
Are you sufficiently cowed? So what if KMart decides to open at 8 p.m. You don't have to go there. My sister-in-law got up at 5 a.m. to be at her job at 7 a.m. because it's just another day and people depend upon her. Should we shut down our police and fire services because it's Thanksgiving and those men and women have just as much right to celebrate a holiday with their family as a retail clerk? And if you're watching the football game right now, look around the stadium. People are working on Thanksgiving so you can sit in your recliner and bemoan the fact that some stores deem it necessary to open in 6 hours. Do you think a football game just magically happens? There are people working the cameras; people frying the hot dogs; walking the stands to provide security; unstopping the toilets if necessary. People are working on Thanksgiving Day and they may, sincerely, wish they were home listening to cousin Rob's ridiculous hunting stories instead of armed with a pair of tongs for rotating bratwurst. They are there because it's their job.
So, I find this hew and cry about retailers opening on Thanksgiving to be more than a little stupid. Yes, stupid. There may be thousands of people who don't want to be the clerk in the check out line but, because it's their job, they have to be. We have forgotten all the other people who work on Thanksgiving because they have to or because they want to. It's just another day for them. Do we bother thanking them? Hardly. We "expect" them to be there.
Here is a heartfelt thank you to family members and friends of my readers who worked today. Thanks for monitoring the dials at the power plant. Thanks for being in the IDOT yellow help vehicles if I have a flat tire. Thanks for being at the convenience store which happens to be open because, crap, I don't have Cool Whip for my pumpkin pie. Thanks for being on call if my furnace should go out or my cat get violently ill.
Thank you for working Thanksgiving Day.
Beverage: Dr Pepper