Appreciating leisure since I have it
August 7, 2019
OK, the Republicans are excusing the most excessive acts of Donald Trump, our most excessive president, and the Democrats might come up with such a toxic stew of unpopular policies that even Trump’s excesses might seem preferable.
It’s time to write a column about something else, now that summer is drawing to a close. School starts within a week of this column’s publication.
School starting to me still means summer is over, even if outside temperatures still exceed 100 by day until September, when school used to start.
Summer is called a time of leisure. That’s only for the young and only when they’re in school up through college. And even college students today work through their summers because they have to.
When I was done with school, though, summers were no more leisurely than the rest of the year, except for those weeks when we traveled with the kids for a few days of real vacation.
I worked as many hours in a given summer week as in a week in any other season.
In the inland areas of Southern California where I used to live, that didn’t matter. Summer heat often bordered on the unbearable. So much for relaxing outside.
That myth of summer leisure, I think, was invented by Madison Avenue to sell beer.
We lived close enough to the freeway in California to watch a slavish ritual on summer Fridays that began what passed for leisurely weekends.
An endless line of cars, pickup trucks, and recreational vehicles, often towing boats and “personal watercraft” added to the clog of drivers just trying to get home from work. When they reached us, they were up to two hours of stop-and-go into a five- to six-hour weekend drive to The River.
The River was the Colorado, at the far end of the oven-like California desert.
For the first two or three hours of the drive, it was stop-and-go traffic. That was followed by another three hours in the desert.
If your car radiator survived the burdens of towing, hot weather and air conditioning, you could stand in line on Saturday to launch your boat and run a slalom course of other watercraft for a few hundred feet on a ribbon of water about a quarter-mile wide.
If you were on the river in Laughlin, Nevada, you could escape the heat in a casino crowded elbow to elbow, while depleting your bank account at a slot machine. There always seemed to be enough of those to accommodate a crowd.
Then it was pack up, load up the boat and trailer, and make that long drive home on Sunday evening, often facing that bumper-to-bumper traffic at the end of the drive.
You went back to work on Monday needing a rest from all that packing, loading, driving and driving, unloading, reloading, re-packing and driving, driving, driving again.
For the past several years, which I haven’t bothered to count, I’ve been enjoying a retirement interrupted by regular part-time work by my choice.
I won’t say well-earned retirement. That’s for others to decide. It became available, though, and I’m determined to enjoy it as much as possible while I’m still healthy.
Anyway, I can now experience leisurely summer days along with leisurely, fall, winter and spring days.
I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t enjoying it, but knowing leisure now makes me realize how seldom we enjoy real leisure while we’re working to make it happen.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a semi-retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: