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Labor Day is one of those holidays people take for granted as JUST a 3 day weekend. The representation that it’s the last hurrah before summer’s end and we get all of our favorite sweaters and cardigans out for the Fall. Too bad Climate Change has kidnapped Fall and I don’t think putting a picture of a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte on a milk carton will help us find it again. Maybe one day we’ll have Fall.
Labor Day exists because of the people fought back against the failures of the industrial revolution. The Industrial Revolution made people give up their rights for the sake of having a job and something to do. It’s the “Don’t complain, at least, you’ve got a job” mentality. People got paid small sums of money to put their lives on the line for 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week and almost no fruits to labor since most these jobs had toxic fumes they produced to kill all fruits. Through taking unpaid days off work, marching, protesting and directly confront the Department of Labor, there was change on the horizon.
(Yes, I plan to make a Fork Full of Noodles about this topic…of course I am, it’s weird, interesting and has cultural relevance, so it’s right up my alley!)
8 hour work-days, weekends, lunch breaks were all part of what the Labor Movement achieved. Plus in the late 1800s a day off was given in September to honor those in the workforce. I don’t think it’s supposed to be an excuse to have huge pool party rager and try to hook up with the hot lifeguard. But when you do hook up with the hot lifeguard, make sure you thank the Labor Movement for the opportunity and the day off that made it happen. At this point, the Labor Movement is also responsible for relationships with people that way out of other folk’s leagues so they’re still making strides as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of Labor and jobs are lot lately. I consider myself pretty lucky that I got to pursue what I’ve always wanted to and I did it when I was relatively young. I started performing at age 16. I started hitting the road when I was 21. I’ve been doing Stand Up pretty much Full Time since I was 24. But it’s not without its trials and tribulations. I definitely had some jobs that were held the spirit of the Industrial Revolution. Don’t complain, at least you’ve got a job!
The first job I ever had was at Subway. Yes, I was one of those people that pretentious referred to themselves as a “Sandwich Artist” instead of “Bun Slave”. It was also one the earliest jokes I ever wrote about (I’ll put an audio file here from when I was 17). I was 14 when I started this job. The reason I got it was so I didn’t have depend on an allowance that my parents would give me for chores. Something that my dad would arbitrarily decide to take away whenever he felt like it. So I wanted to have a little independence. I got this job to fulfill that goal.
And I had to take public transportation to and from this job, because my dad wouldn’t drive me and my mom was already at work. So I would take a bus from the suburbs to Downtown, to catch a train to go to the other side of the suburbs. That took about an hour, on a good day. But I only had to do it 2 days out of the week during school and 4 during the summer.
I kept wondering how many people worked a job that they had to make this kind of travel everyday. My guess is probably more than I thought when I was 14. I tried to keep myself focused on what was important, my semi-financial independence.
Now don’t get me wrong I knew I wasn’t making enough money to get out of the house or anything. But I did have enough to get myself some comic books and CDs and some art supplies and notebooks to write in. That was a nice feeling. I did miss my friends though. I would always see kids from my school at the Mall, buying Hot Topic shirts, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, condoms and what nots. I would be cool if I had the chance to do that. The irony of the situation was, I was earning my money but usually when I went to buy my comic books, mangas, CDs etc, I had to do it alone. I worked at the prime weekend shopping hour. At 14, balancing a work and social life was difficult. Just as difficult as it as it is at 29.
Working is what I’ve done over half my life now. I’ve worked at Starbucks, being a recruiter at my college, selling shoes, filling out spreadsheets, a design boutique and a corporate job. Each one filled that spirit of “Don’t complain, you have a job don’t you!?” I never really felt happy or excited at those jobs. Just got a paycheck to put gas in my car to get me to more comedy stuff or buy me some design supplies.
I think one of the worst times in my life was the year after college. This was right before I really pushed myself into Comedy after college. There was a hesitation in me pushing into comedy because I didn’t want to complain so I had to get a job.
It’s odd to me that anything creative field isn’t considered a job. Like creating things and solving problems in our society aren’t really valued…not with monetary compensation anyways. It’s good for a pat on the head or little humble brag here or there, but nothing to help the creative spirit survive and grow. I think that says a lot about how we look at the workforce and the idea of labor.
As usual I didn’t get a job right away, especially not in my field! So I eventually got a job at a shoe store. Mostly, I was bored and would chit chat with the employees about comedy, design, life…whatever kept the boredom away. Most of the customers knew we were bored too and would strike up conversations about things. I will say it was good spot for me pass out my business card from time to time.
Around that time I also got a temp job. Basically I was trying to make as much money as possible to pay off my debts and start my life with the girl I was dating. This job…sucked. It was basically doing due diligence and filling out spreadsheets to ensure credit card and lending companies had the right information for future loans and contacts. If you didn’t fall asleep by the end of that sentence, you did better than I did on Day 1.
During my training, I definitely fell asleep like 3 times. Once I got my logins and a desk it became even more difficult to keep my eyes open. I would usually write or research design stuff or comedy clubs in secret. Don’t worry it was in between assignments. Due Diligence is basically the research step of what I do with Fork Full of Noodles, except it’s stuff I care about and find interesting. During my breaks I’d go hide somewhere to eat in peace and read design books.
I was supposed to be at that job for 4 months before I would get placed somewhere else probably doing the same fucking thing. Oh, I was still working at the shoe store too! So my days would begin at 6am and end at 10pm, about 4 days out of the week. Fridays I’d only be at the office job and Saturday and Sundays I was only at the shoe store. I barely had time to see my mother, let alone go to open mics. Well at least I had 2 jobs…right?
This is basically shitting on what the Labor Movement fought for. I was inhaling toxic fumes to the mind at this point. Clouding my brain and creativity with the fog of despair and complacency. But again, I had 2 jobs, so that’s something right?
My final straw with job was the Mean Girl Gossip Crew that I had to call co-workers that I’m almost certain hated me. I was the only male that worked there and I didn’t socialize. Mostly it would be them talking shit on people around the office. It always disappoints me when I see perfect examples of stereotypes. I quit after my birthday…and a crying episode on my birthday, post dinner to my then girlfriend…naked in her bed. Not my finest moment.
I think about how many times my mom had told me “Don’t complain, at least you have a job!” It’s part of the reason why I’ve been thinking a lot about Labor and jobs. Is that all it’s meant to be? Something to do for 8 hours a day? Just to keep our hands busy? Making the same sandwich, coffee beverage or updating the same file? Shouldn’t it be more?
I think so. I think what we do, our jobs, should be something that means something to us. That helps find passion in our lives and our place in the vastness and expanse of the universe. This job that I have is challenging. I manage my own tours, press, promotions. I spend a lot of time researching and writing about topics I want to talk about and make videos about. It’s a lot of work but I love every second of it. I want that for everyone. Everyone should love what they do and enjoy challenges instead of recoil at the thought of it.
Maybe that’s the spirit of what the Labor movement is…Love what you do! And a lot of people harp of me for making statements like this or talking about Universal Basic Income and so on. But I’m not saying that we’d all pursue creative jobs like comedian, musician or painter. There are people out there love carpentry, cooking, fixing cars, working on houses, nursing and so much more! Shouldn’t those people be able to do whatever is in their power to pursue the things they want to?
It’s hard and scary especially today. The way we treat labor and the workforce is an insult to what the Labor movement represented. CEOs making over 400 times of the lower level employee is robbery! And that’s what the sentiment of “Don’t Complain, at least you have a job” represents.
I do believe that Labor will probably spark the great change again. When automation comes in the corporations and CEOs we were told to believe in don’t have a plan B for all those people that lost their jobs, and complaining won’t be the only thing they’ll do. They’ll fight back for being robbed…not just of their money, but their time and passion.
So maybe that’s what we need in the world Labor. Passion and Love. So I encourage everyone to go do what they Love. Even if it’s just for one day, give it a shot. See what happens.
Hope you had a good and productive Labor Day friends..