Laboring

I’ll be perfectly honest. I’ve never quite understood Labor Day. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s lovely to have a holiday that sort of unofficially ends summer. As I recall from the days when I worked hard for my money, any excuse for a day off was greatly appreciated. I’m not sure people feel exactly that same way what with so many people still working from home. However, even if you’re working from home, it’s nice to not have to put on nice clothes, even if you’re only wearing them from the waist up.

I understand the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter. I applaud celebrating our freedom on Independence Day. I am humbly grateful for those who gave their life for our freedom on Memorial Day, and for everyone who serves their country in the military on Veterans’ Day.

Labor Day, however, has always been a little hard for me to understand. I am not anti-labor-union. Hey, I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. But why does everyone get the day off, even those of us who don’t belong to a union?

Not complaining, mind you.

Anyhoo, I did belong to a union, a very long time ago. I was a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union for the one year that I worked at Safeway while living in Leadville, Colorado. I was hired to work stocking shelves with non-food items like aspirin and baby diapers. I was low man on the totem pole, and was promptly “bumped” by an existing employee with more tenure, who took my job. I was left with her job, which was stocking the dairy cases. No more little boxes of Tums containers. Instead, I was lifting metal cases of gallons of milk onto flatbed carts and stocking the refrigerated cases while wearing a coat and a hairnet. Still, I was paid a decent wage and got time-and-a-half for working night crew.

For a lot of my life, my labor consisted of working for my mom and dad in the bakery. Two bakeries, in fact. I was a cashier at Gloor’s Bakery in Columbus and a waitress in the little coffee shop attached to Gloor’s Bakery in Leadville. Dad’s bakeries were not union shops, though he paid me fairly.

Safeway was not my first non-family job, however. The first paycheck I got that wasn’t signed by Reinie Gloor was at a restaurant in Lincoln, Nebraska, Ramada Inn near the airport. The hotel was located in an industrial area, and the restaurant was, well, humble at best. I had never waited tables before, other than handing sandwiches to the regulars at the five- or six-booth coffee shop. But the manager of the restaurant gave me a shot.

I wasn’t a bad server (we called ourselves waitresses at that time). There was no union to protect me, so I made my money from tips. My parents often took their kids out for dinner, so I basically knew how to wait on hungry diners.

I did receive some criticism from a diner early in my Ramada Inn career. A man and a woman were having a steak dinner. They lingered, and I kept coming back to them to see if they needed anything. Finally, the man looked at me with distain and said, “Could you please just leave us alone?”

Aha, I thought. An out-of-town affair. Duh. While I don’t remember my tip, I’m sure it was not great, and justly so.

Since that time, I’ve labored in a number of ways. I even worked in a donut shop while attending CU-Boulder. I didn’t bother anyone having an extramarital affair, but I did get a phone call in which the caller told me he was across the street and had a gun pointed at my head. If you drop the phone, I will shoot you, he said. I dropped the phone and ran like hell to the back room, and lived to tell you about it.

I hope everyone had a happy Labor Day. If you’re in Colorado, please stay warm.

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