Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column contemplating the lost art of the 40-hour work week.It seems we’re always hearing reports of how many more hours Americans put into their jobs than they used to. One study found that, on average, we’re working a week more per year than we did in 1970. We also put most other major industrialized countries to shame when it comes to keeping our noses on that grindstone. The average German worker, for example, works five weeks less every year than her American counterpart. This trend confuses us. We’ve had a front row seat for the computer revolution and, for some reason, we though the digital age would be the age of labor saving. Did George Jetson put in tons of overtime? We remember our parents and their friends spending evenings and weekends doing something completely unrelated to work. A lot of times they were home, bugging us to sit down to dinner as a family, or just to hang out with them and watch TV. We would never have time to do that today. Most of our spare time now gets concentrated into our few vacation weeks, when we have to make some kind of elaborate trip. If we stayed home and rested, our neighbors might think we were lazy, or maybe even un-American.
This is not a nostalgic musing. Our adolescence was not necessarily the “Good Old Days.” We’re just perplexed at the trend. Does the intense work and frantic recreational activity of the 21st century really make people happier?Some experts argue it’s all about the money. We work harder because we have to, they say. Hmm. We look around at our county’s second homes and behemoth SUVs and try to find any element of necessity. Maybe high-end vacation homes are vitally important as an occasional escape from stressful, 60 to 80 hour-a-week jobs.We wonder how this cycle got started. Did it start with the movement to turn children into little achievement machines? Baby Einstein, Baby Mozart. It seems like nobody wants their kid to be plain old Baby Fred. Even Baby Fred doesn’t want to be Baby Fred. We read recently about a survey of today’s American college students. The respondents listed “being famous” as one of their top career goals.Famous like Michael Jackson? or Osama bin Laden? Or just famous like any number of drug-addicted, plastic surgery-enhanced People Magazine celebrities? We may be out of synch with the times, but fame in and of itself doesn’t strike us as much of a life dream.
Which brings us back to all those hours spent at work. In the old days (like the 1970s), this phenomenon was known as the “rat race.” People tried to avoid it. Modern (post-mining, that is) Summit County was settled by refugees from the rat race. No one came up here to get ahead. They came to the High Country to fall behind. Sure, the wood had to be chopped, but there was no train to catch.This lack of ambition might be what accounts for what tourists refer to as Summit County’s “small town atmosphere.” Granted, it’s sometimes hard to feel that atmosphere inside Target or while merging onto I-70 on Sunday afternoon, but it’s still here, hanging on for dear life.We at the Corporate Suites encourage preservation of our county’s laid back character. To that end, we call for an end to overtime, expensive vacations and the ambition to be rich and famous. We’re clocking out at five today, and we plan to take a stroll down the street without raising our heart rate.***
We don’t know if he was a victim of the pressure to be famous, but we were saddened by the recent news of the fatal truck accident of former baseball pitcher Steve Howe, at the age of 48. Howe, 1980’s Rookie of the Year, was best known for his battle with cocaine addiction. The first player to receive a lifetime ban from the game for drug abuse, the talented left-hander seemed to spend more time in rehab than on the mound. The 1992 ban was reversed on appeal and Howe limped through four more years with the Yankees. Two days after being cut by the team, he was arrested at JFK airport for carrying a loaded .357 Magnum in his suitcase. No one knows yet if he was high Friday morning when he rolled his pickup.***It’s Sunday folks, and we’re at home, doing absolutely nothing.
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