This Holiday Season

I’m still on vacation, enjoying not having deadlines or my future looming over my head, but I do want to take a break from my cocktails-and-home-cooking existence to say a quick something about the season we now find ourselves in.

Right now, I’m writing this from a chair in my mother’s house in West Hartford, Connecticut, which is pretty much exactly the bourgeois white peoplesville you think it is. I just took a 20 minute trip to pick up groceries, and everywhere there were people out shopping, because it is Black Friday, one of the ultimate consumerist holidays, where Americans move as one to go spend money on useless shit for Christmas, because the norms of our society have told them that is what they are supposed to do.

This post isn’t necessarily about Black Friday, or how awful it is. You already know all about that. I want to say a quick something about who is out there making sure you can buy your widgets and iThings.

Think about the last thing you bought at a store, or the last time you ate out or got a coffee. Do you remember the person who rang your order up? What they looked like? What their name was? What, if anything, you talked about? Do you remember anything about them whatsoever, other than that they facilitated your consumption?

Today, and even yesterday, thousands of workers are on the job, away from their families, denied any sort of holiday break whatsoever because there are millions of you who feel the primeval urge to get deals and buy things. Many of them are on strike today because they know that enough is enough.And they’re not just striking because of today. They’re striking because worker’s rights in our country are not-so-slowly being eradicated. Things that used to be guaranteed, like health insurance and other benefits are becoming things of the past.

In the restaurant industry, it is even worse. The people who are cooking and serving your food are working for some of the lowest wages in America, for which they pull insane hours with absolute no benefits, guaranteed vacations, or anything to lessen the burden. People working the line kill themselves for you, for strangers, not for a necessity, but because you decided that day you didn’t want to cook, or that you wanted to spend a bit of extra money to dress up and be seen at that new hot spot, to brag to your friends that you went there. And the kitchen staff carries on, at great personal cost, usually with no recognition whatsoever. The front of the house, the waiters and bartenders, have probably been on their feet for six or seven hours straight by the time you see them, making less than minimum wage, dependent on tips to survive.

Remember this whenever you go out to eat, or to a shop to buy clothes or groceries or whatever. The person helping you out, answering your silly questions, are having bad days. They are working their asses off for your pleasure, and that day they’ve probably sweated and bled more to do it than you ever have in your life. Check yourself, don’t get pissy that the place you’re eating doesn’t have exactly what you want, don’t make absurd demands on sales staff. You’re not helping. You’re being an asshole, and you need to stop.


4 thoughts on “This Holiday Season

  1. Additionally, regarding the cashiers who annoy you with small talk and other seemingly inane queries…they have to do that. “Secret Shopper” programs make being fired for not talking to you a very real threat; the various companies want them to ask you those questions.

  2. How would you like to see this problem solved on a national level? Or to whatever degree beyond your reader base and immediate social circles? Do you think spreading an idea of individual social consciousness will do the trick?

    • To be honest, I don’t exactly know. Any struggle like this, one where we are working against ingrained social attitudes, requires a lot of time and a lot of effort. Treating service staff better is a small thing, but it starts to go a long way. The more people who see cooks, waiters, busboys, shop clerks, etc. as people, the more people who will know about their working conditions and want to do something.

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