Jerry Davich: Taking a vacation? Why the heck not?
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org July 24, 2012 5:14PM
Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:20AM
Are you taking your paid vacation from work this summer, or possibly later this year?
I ask because a surprisingly high number of workers in this country are not doing so, for a variety of reasons, including fear of losing their job, too heavy of a workload, or simply no money to do so.
My question to them, and possibly you is this: What the (expletive) are you thinking?
I wondered this while, ahem, taking my paid vacation last week and hopping off my ever-spinning workload carousel, if only for a few days.
I also read a survey showing up to 60 percent of U.S. workers didn’t take all their vacation time last year.
Instead, they lost it, forever. Why? Why? Why?
Even if you take a vacation only to stick around home for a few days and “pop in” to the workplace to tidy it up, check on things, or show your face to the boss, study after study shows that vacations are good for your health, family life, and overall wellbeing. I agree, of course.
I escaped last week to “God’s country,” a.k.a. Wisconsin, to visit my daughter in Milwaukee and to stay a few days at Wisconsin Dells, my first visit there.
It was pretty much everything I expected it to be — a family-friendly tourist destination that’s cheesy, campy, and schmaltzy.
The Dells’ main drag is the Midwest’s version of the Las Vegas strip, minus of course the glitz, the gall, and strip joint peddlers on every corner. The Dells, though, certainly has something for everyone, even a cynic like me who equates “tourist” with “chump.”
So, thanks to my happily cheesy, campy and schmaltzy girlfriend, I slowly learned to embrace being a tourist. Maps, brochures, and camera in hand.
But isn’t that what vacations are all about, to escape your normal life, typical lifestyle, and built-in attitudes? To take your nose away from the daily grindstone, to stop pushing that boulder up the hill, and to simply … take … a … break?
I understand that, as a country, too many of us are obsessed with work.
It’s what we do. It’s who we are. It’s seemingly why we exist, although we would never admit that.
In fact, our jobs are our primary identity. Not our other roles as, say, parent, volunteer, or hilltop philosopher.
If you’re among the fortunate workers who still get a paid vacation these days, you need to cash in that fleeting benefit.
Use it or lose it, you know. Plus, all of us need that time away to recharge our emotional batteries and, if anything, get a fresh outlook on things.
Different currency rate
While away from my handful of jobs, I noticed several universal truths, common themes, and familiar trappings about vacations in general.
I took notes, of course, but I did no professional writing of any kind, a rarity for me.
To all those overworked and underappreciated workers who are taking a pass on taking a vacation this summer, here’s what you missed.
Either my observations will compel you to now take your vacation, or they will confirm you’re making the right choice.
First, how far away do you have to travel for it to be considered a genuine, official, full-fledged “vacation”?
Maybe 50 miles away from home (and work)? Or 100 miles? A two-hour trip? Five-hour trip?
Or is just about getting away to somewhere, anywhere, period, even if it’s in the next county?
Personally, I view the notion of taking vacations as many married couples with kids view the notion of having sex — a lot of planning, a little negotiating, a ton of anticipation and, before you know it, it’s all over. Sigh.
Vacations also are about sleight of hand, as I witnessed first-hand in downtown Dells while watching an extremely talented street corner magician.
He deftly used the art of distraction to amaze dozens of tourists at a time, including me.
We do the same thing during our vacation time by tricking ourselves into looking at the illusion of our time away in an attempt to magically forget what we left behind.
Monthly bills, weekly appointments, daily responsibilities — poof, they disappear! Or so we try to pretend.
I also noticed that money has a different currency rate while on vacation. It’s gamely treated as Monopoly money.
For instance, I would never pay $6 (!) for a small mango smoothie, yet there I was buying three of those tasty suckers while on vacation.
A pleasant upside of vacations is the ability to lose track of time, something that never happens during my normal workday.
One day last week I temporarily forgot what day it was. Is it Wednesday? Thursday? How blissful is that?
What wasn’t so blissful was the never-ending parade of human flesh and near-nudity revealed at the Dells (the water park capital of the universe, you know).
Don’t think for a Milwaukee minute that most Dells’ water park guests are string-bikini models or fitness gym regulars.
No, I’ve never seen so many proudly naked beer guts, and don’t get me started on the men.
I’ve also never seen so many white folks at one location collectively working on their sunburns. Ouch.
However, vacation time is about the only time I can actually finish a book. In its entirety. Without it gathering dust over weeks of neglect.
For me, it was “The Fiddler in the Subway,” by Gene Weingarten, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist who’s probably the best storyteller since Mark Twain.
It was Twain who once wryly quipped, “The secret of success is to make your vocation your vacation.”
Unless you’re lucky enough to fit this clever criteria, I strongly suggest you take a vacation this year.
Trust me, you’ll feel better for doing so, and the rest of us vacationers will feel better, too.
Seriously, you’re making the rest of us look lazy, unproductive, and unappreciative of our jobs. In other words, un-American.
Listen to Jerry’s Olympic-sized “Casual Fridays” radio show this Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.