Bridges and Ferries

November has always been one of my favorite months of the year, despite the bad reputation it gets for the bare, leafless trees and the cold winds that serve as harbingers of winter.  To me, November is all about celebrations.

When I flip up the October page of the calendar and stare at glorious November, a goofy grin appears on my face.  The holiday season hath begun!  I feel no compulsion to wait until Black Friday.  I now feel license to put on the holiday music without feeling like an utter goofball.  Granted, I’ve been known to do this in March or August if the mood strikes, but then then it’s a guilty pleasure.  Now I can finally feel appropriate.  And so I revel in the Home Alone soundtrack on my headphones, the precision of the orchestration so incredible that, if I close my eyes, I can see John Williams waving his baton at the horns and strings.

For me, November is a month of anticipation.  As a kid, I would relish the approach of Thanksgiving, an opportunity to stuff myself with abandon.  And right after that, we’d be celebrating my father’s birthday, and you know what that means.  Cake!

Now that I am once again a member of the workforce, November is prized (at least by employees of the State of California) as the only month in which the calendar features three paid holidays.  First, we have the day off for Veterans’ Day on 11/11, then we have not one, but two days off for Thanksgiving.  This represents the only time of year at which I have four consecutive days off without the necessity of burning a vacation day.  That’s just enough time to celebrate with my wife’s family here and then head down to the Central Valley to celebrate with my own family as well.

December may be feted as the premier holiday month, but we state employees have only a single paid holiday then, on Christmas Day.  In every place I’ve worked, there has always been much discussion about the possibility of cadging days off for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Some of my employers have allowed staff to leave two or three hours early on those days while being paid for the full day.  A few have even expressed their holiday generosity by granting staff a half-holiday, a full four hours off.  I’ve also worked in 24/7 businesses where such largesse is not possible.  That’s when the jockeying for vacation days begins.  Those with seniority put in for those days at the earliest possible opportunity.  When I was a manager, I would have staff make weak attempts at reserving Christmas Eve off some six months in advance.  I’d have to tell them to see me again in about four months or so.

This year, holiday scheduling turned up as a staff meeting subject back in September.  It’s not the eves of Christmas and New Year’s that are the issues this time around, but the days after those holidays.  The calendar informs me that Christmas and New Year’s each fall on a Thursday.  That means that the corresponding Fridays are regular workdays.  Hence, the mad scramble to lock down vacation days and secure two consecutive four-day weekends.

It seems to me that the logical thing to do in this situation would be to treat Christmas and New Year’s just as we do Thanksgiving:  Give everyone a paid day off on the day after.  Say “happy holidays” with the gift of a pair of long weekends and plenty of time to spend with family and friends.

The French have seen the wisdom of this course of action stretching back decades.  Any time a public holiday falls on a Thursday, the next day is a holiday as well.  They call this maneuver faire le pont (“making the bridge”) and refer to the extra day off as le jour férié (“the ferry day”).

I think the French have the right idea.  We often call upon “bridges” and “ferries” not only as a literal method of making physical crossings between the mainland and the islands, but also as a metaphor for making connections between people in a multicultural, multilingual world.  And as we approach the time of year when we bow our heads in thanks and celebrate the joys of family, I urge that more employers consider creating those bridges and ferries that will give their loyal employees the concentrated time off they need to recharge their batteries and remind themselves why they are working in the first place.

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9 thoughts on “Bridges and Ferries

  1. Ah I could feel the joy in the post. While I do love the holidays, last winter here in Chicago nearly killed my spirits. I nearly drown in the dark, dreary, cold days and often have a hard time swimming to shore so to speak. I already feel myself whiny and emotional after our first dusting of snow yesterday. Bring on spring I say! 🙂

    • Clearly, you need to move to California, Michelle. We do have a little bit of rain in the winter, but most years it is minimal. I would say we get hit with a good El Niño about once every decade or so. We are snow-free, but it is easy to take a short drive into the mountains anytime you miss the white stuff. It has been a balmy 80 degrees here the last few weeks. Although I have heard many wonderful things about Chicago, I sure am glad that I do not have to spend the winter there!

      • Actually, Michelle, the cost of living depends on where you are in California. This is a very, very large state. I do not recommend living in San Diego or Orange County due to the financial considerations you cited. Ditto for the Bay Area. But here in the rural areas of northern California, homes are reasonably priced and professional salaries more or less keep up with the cost of living. Come on over!

  2. When I first saw your title, being a native Californian, I thought Golden Gate, Bay Bridge and the Ferries that run across the bay. Oh well good post. But it reminds me of Scrooge. Remember how he resented giving his poor employee Christmas Day off.

  3. November gets an unwarranted bad wrap. Me personally, it’s my favorite – yellow and red leaves cascading down on the wind, the cool, but not frozen time of year that make the air feel clean and yes – the holidays. My birthday, followed by the not-celebrated in the US Guy Fawkes Day, which i cash in for my birthday because of bonfires and fireworks, then thanksgiving. Even without those, It’s the month where you see the end of the year without dreading the wallet-ache of Christmas.

    And Nablo-thinga-majigger, of which I am a first time participant.

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