The city in the summer. A concrete inferno reeking with the stench of hot garbage and overripe armpits. Infinite ring around the collar, circling into a downward spiral toward the unpleasant sensation that youre going to completely lose your mind if you dont watch out. Which is why I keep Summer Hours.
I get up in the morning lets call it Monday morning. I shower and get dressed. I grab a Grande Frapp on the way to work and get to the office by 10 a.m. I say hello to co-workers. I answer a few emails. I leave the office at 10:50 a.m. and walk the city with my sports coat tossed over one shoulder. I find an open ice cream shop. I walk inside to enjoy the air conditioning. I order a double scoop of mint chip on a sugar cone, the Official Cone of Summer Hours.
Later, I return to the office, but everyone has gone home. Then I remember: Its Monday Afternoon. Summer Hours. I decide its too hot to go home just yet and that Ill take a nap on my desk.
When my boss wakes me, he says, a bit rudely, Were all in the Monday meeting. Get your ass in there, now. So it turns out everyone didnt go home.
Jesus, youre all here, I say as I enter the conference room.
Do you have that report I asked you for last week? my boss snaps.
Well, no, I say, laughing lightly, taking my seat. No, of course not. Some of my co-workers giggle with their heads down because they think my boss is such a jerk-wad. Plus, theyre pissed off! Its, like, 4 p.m.! The boss is making them stay late! Hello does somebody have something against Summer Hours?
Another example of my boss trying to interfere with Summer Hours: Week day, lets call it Tuesday afternoon. Air-conditioned movie theater, big ol cup of iced soda in one hand, a bag of popcorn that could feed Sudan on my lap. Summer Hours call for Summer Snacks. And on the screen, a great little blockbuster Ive seen three times already. But this time, in the films singular quiet scene, my boss calls me on my cell. Since I was not expecting a call from my boss on freaking Tuesday afternoon in the summer, for crying out loud, I had not turned off my phone.
The hushed theater is ambushed by my cells blaring interpretation of Bon Jovis Wanted Dead or Alive (My bosss song, because he thinks hes such a stinkin cowboy!). I fumble around, spilling my popcorn, as my fellow moviegoers make their frustration plain with angry whispers in my direction. I make plain with my whispering back that Im sorry, and its my bosss fault anyway. I finally get my cells ringer turned off and go back to the movie. When my boss calls three more times in, like, three minutes, I send him a text that says, WTF??????
He responds with a text: See me in my office tomorrow morning, 8.a.m.
Look, when youre on Summer Hours, your company will try to trick you into doing all kinds of extra work. Dont fall for it.
I respond with, If I come in that early, I leave at noon.
My boss texts back: Youll be able to leave earlier.
I go back to the movie, knowing he understands that I cant be pushed around.
Its not just over-ambitious bosses who challenge the idea of Summer Hours. Sometimes its the people who are closest to you.
Example: Im sweaty and drunk on a bar stool on a Wednesday night (or is it Thursday morning?). A girl with blonde hair and a piquant smirk walks into the bar, looks around. She sees me and walks right up. She says, What the fuck are you doing? I squint. Its then that I recognize her as my girlfriend. I say, Well, I might be working. Ive sort of forgotten. What time is it? Its three fucking a.m., she says, and you got fired from your fucking job, you deadbeat! Not to mention that we had a date five hours ago and you didnt show! Ive been calling you! Wheres your phone? Dont tell me you lost your phone again!
Phone schmone, I explain. Its the summer. How many times do I have to tell you? I keep Summer Hours.
She says, Goodbye, in that way that indicates she means its forever. She walks out. But what she doesnt realize is that nothing is forever not even Summer Hours, unfortunately.
A man with three-days scruff on his cheeks, wearing nothing but flowered bathing trunks and flip-flops, sits on a subway train at 2 p.m. on a weekday. That man is I. What ever happened to Summer Hours, anyway? I think to myself and also say out loud to the passengers sitting near me on the train.
I see some of them shuffle in their seats, because apparently no one likes to be confronted with honest thinking these days.
Practice Summer Hours as I do, I continue, with a certain sense of loyalty, some stinking loyalty to the fact that, without Summer Hours, American Capitalism will collapse in a sweaty heap, and people just stare like theres something wrong with you. Like you people are staring at me right now! Well, whats wrong with all of you? Ha! Thats my question to every single one of you. Even if youre suddenly scurrying off the train, trying to get away from me, you cant escape the truth! Somethings wrong! You people are a disgrace to American Capitalism! Thats what I have to say to you.
A short time later, a police officer boards the subway train, approaches me, and asks, What do you think youre doing?
I lean back in my seat, cross my legs and casually snap my flip-flop against, I imagine, the ruthless heel of authority. Well, I say to the cop, what does it look like Im doing?
He tilts his head slightly as his shoulder radio crackles with something about a suspect disrupting passengers on a subway train. Then he looks me in the eye.
To tell you the truth, my friend, he says, it looks like youve been keeping Summer Hours.
Jamie Allen is an Atlanta writer whose column, Rocket Science, appears occasionally on Fresh Loaf. To read more Rocket Science columns, click here. Hed very much like you to visit The Duck & Herring Co.s Pocket Field Guides website, which he edits.
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