Since 2013 I’ve worked at the apple orchard on Labor Day.
The holiday coincides with ripening of Honeycrisp apples which is one of our most popular varieties. There are more than a dozen others, including Gala, McIntosh, Red Gravenstein, Burgundy, Cortland, Ginger Gold, Red Free and Akane, ripe and ready to pick.
It rained on Saturday, which suppressed the crowd, but Sunday a couple thousand guests stopped by. It was our busiest day this season.
My job title is “mapper.” That means I talk to many of our customers and help them have a positive experience at the orchard. A large map is displayed at my work station, from which I tell a story about how to find apples. Even when a majority of people seek the same variety, each customer is wants something a little different. It’s my job to figure out what that is and help them find it in a personal way. Sometimes I draw a map on a slip of paper showing where specific apples are. Mostly I use the map as a reference point and work to enable customers to break the chains of intellectual engagement and look at the 80 acres of land that makes up our orchard. With popular varieties that’s easier because the rows of apple trees are visible from my perch at the top of the hill. Among the many things our orchard represents, it is a chance to get away from daily life for a while.
Rain had been holding off Sunday until around 4:30 p.m. when clouds gathered and let loose a shower. Our guests headed into the sales barn and to their vehicles to get out of the weather. Rainfall signaled the end of the day more than our business hours.
I enjoy working at the orchard, especially when it is busy. My personal tradition has been to work on Labor Day and I’ve done it for as long as I can remember.
In the transportation and logistics business operations never ceased and our family had no culture of celebrating this holiday. I recall a Labor Day I drove into the Chicago loop to work in my office. I parked at a construction site near Lake Michigan, walked the block and a half to work, and went through security. I was one of the few people other than security inside the Standard Oil building on Randolph Drive. I believe I got a lot of work done that day, although today am not so sure.
Over the years we’ve become a family that doesn’t celebrate the eight or ten big holidays of the year. That might change in retirement. Even though I grew up in a union household, was a union member at the meat packing plant where my maternal grandmother and father worked, and have a daughter who is represented by a large union, Labor Day is a forgotten time for me. Maybe because I’d been part of management most of my worklife. More likely if I took the day off I wouldn’t know what to do as celebration. In the end, I’d rather spend time with people who are getting away from la vie quotidienne and help make their experience better on Labor Day.
After the rainfall I policed up trash from the picnic area and a young couple asked me to take a photo of them. Guest relations like this is an unwritten part of my job. I looked for proper framing where I could capture the day for them. She handed me her mobile device and I got them to smile. I snapped a photo of them in front of apple trees with our restaurant on the hill in the distant background. The photo pleased them.
I picked up discarded apples, plastic and paper and put them in trash barrels not full enough to empty. That work will be for Labor Day, when if the rain holds off we should have a couple thousand of guests seeking something, apples mostly, but also learning how to live in the 21st Century.