Tuesday, April 17, 2012

True balance from an imbalanced budget

Note: This column appears in the 4/19 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/20 issue of the Peoria Times.

Not long after I entered the real world, I had a revelation: Why do we work five days a week with only two off days? If we claim, as a society, to value most the transcendent things in life, why is considerably more time dedicated to capitalism?

I thought I was really smart for thinking about this, as if no one before had ever considered it. Also, my motivation at the time was by no means “spending more time with family” or “taking aimless walks on the beach and contemplating the vastness of the ocean.” I really wanted another night to go out, and/or another day to recover.

It was around this time I began dating my wife, and assimilating myself to Italian culture. Strengthening my resolve for the 4/3 week were the stories I began hearing about Italy, where businesses are literally closed in the afternoon so people can nap. Even regular business hours mostly involved people sitting in front of the store smoking cigarettes, from what I understood. And sometimes stores were closed for no apparent reason. Italy seemed like the place for me, I thought, unless I actually needed something done, in which case I would be super annoyed.

Fast-forward almost a decade, when my wish finally came true, albeit against my will. Due to the terrible economic circumstances affecting the entire country, all of us here at this newspaper were forced to cut back our work schedule. I initially thought “furlough day” was an Arizona-only holiday honoring Pablo Furlough, inventor of dry heat, and I was happy to celebrate with an annual paid day off. But then my boss had the awkward task of explaining to me what furlough day meant, and that it would be weekly. I cannot say that I was thrilled.

At first this news seemed ill-timed, considering we were new parents of a little girl. But the more I thought about it, the more enticing it became, and my schedule began to open up like the Red Sea. Now I can do laundry and eat on separate occasions! Instead of worrying how I was going to pay for our daughter, I could take advantage of the time spent with her. The false reason I had provided so many years ago for wanting an extra off day had now become a true reason. My new furlough day had miraculously coincided with some newfound maturity.

Granted, if these were the olden days and I was the sole “breadwinner” of the household, I may be singing a different tune. But thank God for trailblazers like Emily Furlough, who provided women the right to work and then outwork men like myself. (Sorry for the history lesson.) 

Anyway, I realize many people locally are staring down the barrel of the furlough day—the City of Glendale is set to include more in its upcoming budget—or are already there (the City of Peoria remains on a 40-hour work week, but has been closed Fridays since 2010). But I am here to tell you it’s not so bad. It beats the alternative, for one, plus you may just find yourself shedding a few of the demands of capitalist society. After all, naps are a healthy way to live longer, as is smoking on a stoop.

I mean look at me. I get more time to spend with our daughter. And more time to recover.

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