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Take a Day Off . . . Please

America, you’ve undertaken a Herculean task, one you picked up shortly after WWII. And you’re to be applauded, for your efforts have changed the face of the planet. Each successive generation has seized the reins from the previous and repledged itself with vigor to this one, immense, never-ending job:


Americans are always shopping. We’re always at the mall, at the grocery store, or, more recently, online. There is just so much that needs to be bought, someone has to do it, and it’s us. If you don’t believe me, go to any big box chain on the weekend. Go to A.C. Moore, where crafters load their carts with neccesities like cinnamon-scented pine cones, scrapbooking tools, and silk flowers. Go to Target, where check out clerks scan $2 sequined toddler t-shirts and “one of a kind” holiday decor pieces that are available in all 1,700 Target stores in the nation. Go to any grocery store and watch the two liter soda bottles and family size Doritos fly off the shelves. I can’t see what people are buying at Amazon, but every time I shop there I am amazed at the variety of stuff available; I still think of it as a book store.

Shopping is a tradition in many families, my own included. When I was a kid, my mom and I would go to the mall, just to “see what we can see,” and we’d spend hours at the department store cosmetic counters. As a teen, my girlfriends and I routinely went to the mall on the weekends to spend our allowances. As a young mother, I often dragged my wee one to the same mall, strapped him into the stroller, and walked around looking for stuff to buy.

Even these days, with the economy supposedly in the toilet, there are always people out shopping. And they seem to be buying, and not just the little things. Not only are the lines at Starbucks usually several people deep, but the staff at places like Best Buy seems to struggle to keep up with customers, too.

Americans are #1 at shopping, and it’s our shopping (addiction) that keeps the world economy afloat. We’ll buy anything that’s for sale. At Home Depot last week, my daughter pointed out a life size light up Christmas Yoda, on sale for only $69. Yoda was wearing a Santa hat. On my most recent visit to the dentist, where I received a clean bill of health, he nonetheless insisted I needed an electric toothbrush. Need? Really? It’s not like I’m using a twig and baking soda. I’m using a brush and toothpaste. “It’s just so much easier,” he gushed.  


I saw an ad on TV this week for pasta you buy in a bag that goes directly into the boiling water. It’s ready in three minutes! the announcer touted.  Aside from the fact that pasta was already a pretty idiot-proof meal, I had no idea people were foregoing its consumption because they were unable to wait the entire 10 minutes penne takes if you cook it the “old-fashioned” way. But in the seven minutes I save, I could go shopping!

However, I believe our right to own treasures like Christmas Yodas is enshrined in the Constitution, so I’m not suggesting we not buy these things or that they not be made available for sale. (In fact, I am sorely tempted to go back and get that Yoda because it is so absurd it makes me laugh, but don’t tell my husband.)

But – and you knew there was a but coming –

Study after study shows that everyone is better at something if they take a break from it, even a short one. Lawyers, chicken processors on a factory line, teachers, parents – everybody returns to their appointed task refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to soldier on. So my suggestion is this:


I hope that you are surprised by my suggestion. Hopefully, your first thought was, “Well, duh, who goes shopping on Thanksgiving Day? OK, maybe in 2008 I ran out for a pound of butter, but other than that?” In which case, pat yourself on the back, sit back, and go doze off during the Lions game. You’re already on board. Rest up for Black Friday.

But there’s a growing number of us for whom shopping on Black Friday isn’t enough. Shopping at 8am, then 6am, then 4am, wasn’t enough. Nope. Now in a horrific example of chicken and egg, last year stores opened on Thursday night to lure those early early birds. Because each time those stores opened earlier on Friday, people came and shopped. And then when the stores opened on the actual holiday of Thanksgiving, people came and shopped. I know a manager at a Michael’s and he told me that last year they did boffo business on Thanksgiving Day, so of course this year, they’re opening again. He’ll miss his family Thanksgiving dinner because he’ll be at work.

People write books about how Americans are materialistic, greedy, acquisitive, and consumptive. I can’t fight a trend of that magnitude. All I’m asking for is one day off. Because Thanksgiving is an American holiday and everyone should have a reasonable expectation of spending the day at home with a turkey and a pumpkin pie. Sure, there are long-haul truckers not at home, doctors on call, someone guarding a missile silo somewhere. But by and large, most people are home. (Whether you want to spend the day with your crazy family is another story.)

But when you insist on going shopping – on Thanksgiving – you are the direct cause of someone else having to work – on Thanksgiving. If Target had opened its doors on Thanksgiving last year and three people had shown up, two of them looking for last minute frozen sweet potatoes, then this year Target would have gone back to being closed. Instead, they had a bumper crop of sales and they’re open again.

So go for a walk, play cards, eat more, watch a football game, work at a soup kitchen, read a book, make your Christmas shopping list, take a bath, eat some more – but please, please, give yourself a much needed rest from shopping, America, and stay home on Thanksgiving Day.

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