Work Life

Now and Then a Day Off

Parker Putnam Building, Davenport, Iowa
Parker Putnam Building, Davenport, Iowa

On Saturdays I took the bus downtown to pay my newspaper bill. In the mid-1960s my home town had a downtown, and it wasn’t unusual.

Newspaper carriers collected subscription fees from customers, then remitted the cost of the papers at the building where they were printed. Whatever was left—a few dollars at most—was our margin.

I spent mine on the bus trip, on snacks at the automat inside Parker’s Department Store, and for an occasional book or magazine. Back then there were at least four department stores downtown and I shopped at them all from time to time.

I continue to have an urge to go downtown on my day off, but of course there is no downtown the way there was.

Sometimes I give in and go, but the impulse is less about the trip itself than feeding a connected and primal need. It’s not the same even though today’s mental awareness is connected to that long ago paperboy. Usually I end up buying things we need if I venture out, like food, light bulbs and hydrogen peroxide.

Days off are more complicated than they were. On every day there is some paid work to be done whether at a work site, or at my desk. I don’t mind. Modern life is about choices we make.

After re-purposing, there was no idea where the road would lead, and that was mostly a good thing. I knew there would be constant work to sustain a life outside of the old fashioned single big paycheck. I embraced the change. Some say over 40 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 60 million people, will derive their livelihood from this kind of “freelancing” also known as “working as needed.”

Dig a bit deeper, and what I am doing is a harbinger of the near-term future, which according to the Intuit 2020 Report, is where “2020 will see a new breed of senior citizens with ‘unretirement’ and active engagement best describing their lifestyle choices.” Translation: my cohort will be working for money until we croak.

So even if I feel the urge to venture downtown, a place that no longer exists, capitulating from time to time seems okay. I would argue it is necessary because so much depends on our connections to the past that if we don’t periodically revisit them, sustaining a life in the present would be nigh impossible.

So now and then, I take a day off.