Who works on Labor Day?
Call it poetic justice. Call it synchronicity. Call it coincidence, but Monday, as I pulled my car out of the driveway and, cup of coffee in hand, headed to work at this very newspaper, the radio was playing that classic Johnny Paycheck song.”Take this job and – it,” Johnny sang.Now, I certainly don’t feel that way about my job. But it did make me smile as I headed into work on a holiday – and Labor Day no less.The streets were deserted. The interstate was not. There were all sorts of vehicles hauling a wide variety of recreational equipment: mountain bikes, road bikes, jet skis, kayaks, ski boats, campers, horse trailers. Those people had the day off. Not me. In a lot of cities and towns across the country, the streets roll up on holidays. Every retail and commercial establishment is shut up tight. Everybody takes the day off. But here, it’s different. Living in an economy that is tourist-based, holidays are when residents make hay. Within a stone’s throw of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent headquarters on Grand Avenue, more stores, fast food restaurants, motels and gas stations were open than closed. So who else works on Labor Day? Expectant mothers come to mind. But the maternity ward at Valley View Hospital had delivered just one baby on Labor Day.Apparently, the baby’s mom was not really up for being in the newspaper after going through, well, hard labor. The ladies working at the Starbucks coffee shop in Safeway on Grand Avenue felt fortunate to have such close proximity to java. They needed it.”We labored on Labor Day!” laughed Sally Writer-Alessi. She worked the entire weekend. So did Cassie Nemelka, who worked on Monday, her last day of summer vacation. But she didn’t mind. Besides, the double-time-and-a-half pay the two received provided a nice benefit. “It’s fine,” said Nemelka, a Glenwood Springs High School student who starts school today. “The last couple nights of summer have been so much fun it’s okay to work today.”Starbucks manager Barb Embry said the holiday coffee crowd was a lot different than usual. “Usually, we know our customers by name,” she said. But Monday, out-of-town customers on their way back to the Front Range were hitting the only Starbucks in a 50-mile radius, and hitting it hard.”Those folks needed their caffeine to get up over the hill,” said Writer-Alessi, said of the impending Eisenhower Tunnel traffic jam that many motorists confronted. Dave York, a co-owner of Roaring Fork Outfitters, worked on Labor Day. He and co-owner Dick Piffer have taken their passion – namely, fishing – and turned it into a business that hardly seems like a grind. In fact, a plaque above the shop’s front door reads, “Work is for those who don’t fish.”The two operate a full service fly shop and year-round guide service on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs.”What do they say?” York laughed. “`For the skier there are no holidays?’ That’s the same way here.”When fishing is bad in Colorado, it’s got to be good somewhere else. The outfitters organize destination fishing trips to the Bahamas and Russia. “We’re closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because those are typically terrible times of the year to fish,” he said. “But Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, we’re open. We took a float trip today on the Colorado.”Officer John Hassell of the Glenwood Springs Police Department worked this Labor Day. He was busy Monday afternoon untangling a fender bender in the 2000 block of Grand Avenue.”It’s been fairly calm this Labor Day, though holidays tend to be a lot busier than normal,” he said.Because holidays give the general public a break from scheduled workdays, more people are out and about with idle time on their hands. Sometimes that can translate to trouble, so local and state police beef up their staff. That means holidays mean more, not less, work for law enforcement. “During this Labor Day weekend, we’ve had our `Heat is On’ DUI patrols,” said Hassell. “We have extra officers on patrol during the evenings.”Managing alcohol intoxication, in fact, is a lot of what Hassell deals with, especially during holidays. “Luckily, today we haven’t seen much of that,” Hassell said. Local police officers don’t get time-and-a-half pay when working holidays. Hassell said that he works 12-hour shifts, and since one of his days is Monday, he worked yesterday. Officers do take a day off for every holiday worked, he said, so “it does even out.”And what’s it like when holidays come around and Hassell has to work while his family and friends have time off?”It’s difficult,” he said. “But I’m here to do my job and serve a purpose. We do what we need to do.”Katie Wellenkotter has been working at the Sinclair gas station on Grand Avenue for just a month. Even though she doesn’t get time-and-a-half, she doesn’t mind working Labor Day. Ironically, she is working long hours on the holiday dedicated to the laborer.”Today I worked 6 to 10 a.m. and then 2 to 10 p.m.,” she said.She reported a busy Labor Day Monday at the gas station.”When it’s busy, you lose track of time and it makes the time go by faster,” she said.
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