Open Thanksgiving?

Unless you're a firefighter, nurse, TV guy, cook, waiter, bartender, or cashier....
Unless you're a firefighter, nurse, TV guy, cook, waiter, bartender, or cashier....

Jessie here.  Over the past several years, more and more large chain retailers decide to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.  This year, Kmart is the consumerism trendsetter, remaining open from 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning until 11 p.m. Black Friday night.  But they’re not alone — many other national stores will be open at some point on Thanksgiving, including Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Kohl’s.  

In my opinion — but not Bair’s, as you’ll read later — it’s obviously consumers’ selfishness and retailers’ greed that have opened doors for shopping on a day that’s meant for gratitude.  And just as obvious, some establishments have to remain open — Stamford Hospital can’t just send all the nurses, doctors, and CNAs home for the day to enjoy dinner with their families.  But what about everyone in between?  Lots of restaurants are open on Thanksgiving and no one writes angry blog posts about that.  My friend and fellow Junk Bird Jim Clegg works for A&E; since TV doesn’t magically stop on Turkey Day, he has missed many a holiday dinner to make sure commercials play at the right time during Ancient Aliens.  (“Or is it possible that the Pilgrims were… VISITORS FROM ANOTHER PLANET?”)  Where’s the outrage for Jim?

I’m not sure what the answer is here, but I do know that the only place I’m going on Thanksgiving is my grandma’s house.  When I put forth the idea of writing round-table column about Thanksgiving hours, Vanessa and Bair quickly stepped to the plate.  Let’s see what they have to say…

Vanessa

Being married to a firefighter I had to spend quite a few holidays without him. Usually I went to my brother’s, which meant eating at a nice restaurant or a fancy hotel. I have also had to work on Christmas. I spent 7 years doing the Christmas show at The Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding, so I worked quite a few Christmas Eves and days. Somehow, the big box retailers being open on Thanksgiving is way different in my book. Of course, we need firefighters 24/7 — same for toll collectors, nurses, maybe even convenience stores. But Kmart? Those poor employees are making minimum wage; even if they got time and a half or double time it is hardly worth missing out on family time. Forget family time, it’s hardly worth the risk of getting trampled to death by a bunch of idiot shoppers. That, I think, is the real issue here. The holiday season is nothing more than a push for sales. Between the TV ads for crap toys, the print ads for crap appliances (50 bucks for a frozen pizza cooker? We already have one. It’s called an oven.), and the traffic caused by the sheep running out to buy these things, it seems the “real” purpose of the holiday gets lost.

I put real in quotes because everyone has a different idea of what the holidays mean and why we celebrate them. I doubt the Pagans were worried about what they’d get their Uncle Odin. And if you’re celebrating Jesus’s birthday, why aren’t you buying him a gift?  If the holidays are really about spending time with family, why does that need to include buying them shit?

Thanksgiving should be spent with family celebrating our genocide of the Native Americans. Hmm. Maybe that’s exactly it. Maybe, by opening stores on Thanksgiving, stores that are manned by our current society’s low men on the totem pole, maybe that’s how white collar America plans to get rid of the poor working man. One big screen TV trample at a time.

Oh yeah? Go fuck yourself.

Bair

I’m a Connecticut resident who lived in Manhattan for the last five years. What should have been my most virile and productive period was spent slaving away in the food service industry in tourist-heavy Midtown. I was accommodating everyone from around the world who was actually out enjoying themselves, soaking in what the outside world thinks is New York City. They went to New York FOR the holiday; to them, Thanksgiving WAS being in NYC. And I’m proud to have been a part of that. I’ve worked every holiday you can name. And that path, leading to the man I am today… I don’t regret a second.

 I opened Ruby Tuesday’s flagship location in Times Square and later moved on to work in one of the highest-volume restaurants in the entire world, Carmine’s. I will tell you this: the people I worked with at those restaurants were my family, as far as my time in New York goes. If anything, I’m sore that I won’t get to taste Carmine’s fennel-pork-sausage stuffing this year!

 Anyone from a ‘traditional’ family setting will tell you that Thanksgiving is for being with your loved ones, your closest, your fam. I was required to work, yes. On a holiday, yes. To benefit those who chose to shop and frolic instead of stay at their own homes, yes. But you know what? I worked side by side with the people I always worked side by side with, I ate Thanksgiving dinner with the same faces that welcomed me every day and with whom I shared a beer every night. The girls I never wanted to see again, the guys I almost got into a fight with, the families of my friends who came in to visit for the holiday, the managers who were often disagreeable but on Thanksgiving weren’t with their families… They were with us. We were family, and we celebrated together.

 You don’t know what’s up until you’ve seen the General Manager of the flagship location of one of the world’s largest casual dining chains, taking what ingredients he could from the coffers. Deep-frying the turkeys where otherwise you cook chicken tenders. Making real mashed potatoes while the store’s mass-produced mashed potatoes stayed on the shelf, ready to zap. This guy made homestyle gravy, stuffing, there was actual homemade cranberry sauce, he did it all. Big ups to Jeff Gabriel, Jose Contreras, and that initial Ruby Tuesday staff; droppin’ bombs for those of us from Ohio, New Jersey, California… All displaced, the Island of Misfit Toys still got their Thanksgiving.

 I could go on for a while; if anyone wants an extended version, by all means I’ll field and encourage requests. But this is for a collective article so I gots to keep it down: those among us who are forwarding this disgusting post, saying that working on Thanksgiving is… What, a sin? ‘I boycott all shopping on Thanksgiving because my whitebread family will be mad if I don’t make it to dinner on time’? Go fuck yourselves. The stores that are open on Thanksgiving are accommodating people who DO want to be out shopping. And the people who are working? The single mother who needs the holiday overtime? The struggling student who can catch up with Nan & Gramps after dinner? The lonely cashier who didn’t have anywhere else to go? You can stay home, Facebook-posting asshole, but let them work if they want to.

Photo via US Uncut

Jessie again.  My favorite thing about these round-table articles is finding out everyone else’s opinion.  For instance, I assumed that Bair would rail against work on Thanksgiving, but he did just the opposite.  I understand his point, but I still don’t agree with him.  Part of the reason I’ll be one of those ‘Facebook-posting assholes’ is because I feel like nothing in our culture is sacred anymore.  Who needs a special day with Grandma?  That’s only for the upper-middle class.  Why shouldn’t that single mom earn some holiday overtime?  It’s not like the giant corporation she works for is required to pay her a living wage.  Nothing in America is for everybody, and there’s nothing that can’t be put on hold in favor of the Almighty Dollar.  

Wait, no — there’s still Christmas!  The one day a year where slightly more people spend time with their families than on Thanksgiving, so they can give each other all the shit they bought…

Will you be shopping on Thanksgiving, or working?  Or will you be one of the white-bread, white-collar bourgeoisie eating dinner with their families?  Leave a comment or email us!

8 comments

  1. I think for the most part there is no real conflict in the three statements for all three espouse the benefits of spending time with people we care about on Thanksgiving Jesse is decidedly against the shopping on Thanksgiving as is Vanessa and Bair has an interesting take from the restaurant side of the business but a restaurant is different from a box store.  At a restaurant there is the gathering around a table with food with people we care about and presumably that means conversation and interaction above and beyond ‘what are we going to buy?” so I do see a difference there. If there is a comment or post from a  non managerial worker at a box store that espouses the virtues of working there on Thanksgiving I would be interested in reading it. But I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving for any items/deals or anything else they want to call it. If being open on Thanksgiving is a bust…there may be second thoughts. 

  2. I like having some options for people who don’t celebrate holidays – I’ve spent Thanksgivings traveling and away from my family, and it would have been lousy if I hadn’t been able to go to a restaurant or movie. But it bugs me that Thanksgiving is being turned into a pure ‘shopping’ holiday.

  3. I pretty much agree with Jessie. I see the other side of it as well though. My brother is a Firefighter and his wife is a nurse so his kids has had holidays that they’ve seen neither of them. It’s the commercialization of the holidays that bothers me. Maybe it was my upbringing but there was never a toy I HAD to have. My own kids 6 & 8 don’t beg or get all fired up about whatever crap toys they see on TV. Family is the most important thing above all. I get Bair’s side. His coworkers were his family on those days. I’ll be drinkin beer and stuffin my pie hole, have a happy one wherever you end up. 

  4. I can see both sides but yeah, the emphasis on shopping really does leave a bad taste in my mouth. That feeling is not just reserved for Thanksgiving, though — it’s for every holiday and every DAY in general. My kids have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. Enough stuff!

  5. THK says that I agree with Bair. Holidays are just advertisements now, anyway. “Now” starting approximately the time that the Christians stole the Pagan’s holidays to lure people in with fun and games (as opposed to their regular practice of using rape and swords)

    People getting all bent about stores being open on holidays is just another way for one group to decide what’s good and right for everyone else. That’s only appropriate when THK does it.

    How about this? If you want to go shopping on a holiday, do it. If you don’t, don’t. Either way, how about we both pipe down about it?

    Everyone likes their panem et circenses a little different. The real conversation SHOULD be one about the linguistic impact of our view of legitimacy vis a vis tradition. Maybe THK has a new article topic.

    (As an aside, whichever of my colleagues that let leak to Vanessa the whole underclass trampling each other for TVs is going to have hell to pay at the next meeting. At the very least, you wont be allowed to do a shot of blue label out of the baby skull after we do coke off the strippers tits.)

  6. I really enjoyed reading all the P.O.Vs here, finding Bair’s perspective especially interesting. Having a place for people to have an *experience* is extremely different than pushing spending at stores, though yes, there are people who love shopping and get a thrill out of getting a deal.

    I just feel the holiday, which wound up being a day to (not touching on the genocide) give thanks  for what we have is trying to turn into a day where we realize we don’t have enough and need to buy more *things*, as if that will make us feel happy and satisfied. It’s a growing trend in our culture in general that I personally think is quite sad.

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