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Livin’ the easy life

Jane Stebbins

I’m a bit tired of all my European friends who like to rub it in my face that in “my country,” everyone gets six weeks of paid vacation.

Or that mothers, fathers and siblings get at least a year off to take care of a new family member. Universal health care. Free college. Year after year of unemployment insurance. The Autobahn.

But I’m really rolling my eyes – I’m fumin’! I’m raging! – because now employees in England can sue their employers if they “experience stress.”

My friends Ralf and Maja, who live in Germany, work, at most, 25-hour weeks. When they feel the urge to kill their co-workers, they hop a plane to, oh, Cancun. For a change of pace, their boss might send them to Miami for a year, and if that gets too dull, they’re off to Paris. Or Melbourne, Australia. Did I mention the six weeks off they get in between? Oh. Well, there’s that, too.

If that’s stress, I’m as relaxed as a heart attack. They don’t know the meaning of the word! (We’ll take the fact that their first language is German out of the picture.)

How stressed can these people get?

Nowhere in this new legislation does it explain what “stress” means. Can’t sleep at night? Have a sore back from a nonergonomic chair? Do you have Marty Feldman’s eyes? Do you find offensive the graphic pictures ripped from the pages of Victoria’s Secret catalog and posted in the office? Is it the workload? The overtime? The chintzy benefits? The pay? The lack thereof?

Maybe you just don’t like the way a co-worker laughs. Maybe co-workers sneezes without covering their mouths. Maybe you’re tired of the receptionist’s Southern drawl. Maybe you hate your automated phone system. Now, that’s stress, baby!

And, if you live in England, if your boss doesn’t do something about it, you can haul his butt right into court.

Well, I have a little stress in my life, lemme tell ya! Never mind that my work is based on deadlines. Never mind that between the keyboard tapping and phone interviews, I can’t hear myself think.

I get three weeks off each year to relax – more than many people – but 99 percent of the time, I end up spending it with my parents, who have yet to notice I’m not 14 anymore and want me to promise I’ll be home by 10 each night.

That’s where we’re headed next month. We’ll leave our stress-laden jobs and drive through the Midwest (think humid, think hot) and arrive, stress-free, in New York City, where Americans go to unwind.

Let’s take a little reality check. My husband hates air conditioning; it dries out his nose. For years, I folded like a cheap tent, and we’d each sweat away 10 pounds en route to Philadelphia. I soon enacted a 100-degree rule. If it’s 100 degrees out, the AC goes on.

Our daughter will forget any or all of the following: her battery-operated fan, sunscreen, a squirt bottle, the book she has to finish before the end of the week and anything else that might keep her amused for the 4,852-mile trip.

Inevitably, something my mother-in-law says will push one of my husband’s buttons, and he will sit in the corner and fume for the rest of the day. My daughter will be bored. I will fall asleep, and I will dream.

I will dream about day-to-day life in Summit County, where I work two jobs, volunteer for five different things and still need to paint the living room.

Guess I won’t be going to court after all.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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