This is the long weekend, the Labor Day holiday on Monday. Now what’s the big deal about an extra day off work? Well, I would ask the same question if I was still in India. What’s the big deal about one extra day of holiday, when we already have so many, thanks to the numerous Gods and Goddesses and the great men of India, their birthdays, death anniversaries, weddings, and if nothing, the bandhs. No more holidays coming up for the next 2 weeks now? Let’s call it a bandh!
One of those many culture shocks I got here was after taking a look at the yearly calendar. Barring weekends and Christmas, I have counted MLK day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and two days of Thanksgiving. There might be more, but I only know of 6 extra holidays a year. No holidays for Makar Sankranti, Poornima, Karwa Chauth, and Maha Shivratri.
And guess what? My poor granny asked me the other day- Will they give you holidays for Durga puja?
Most holidays (except July 4) fall on Fridays and Mondays (long weekend!). No holidays on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
This means you slog your butt off Monday through Friday. No midweek potluck parties, driving down to Spokane to meet your best friend, or attending musical concerts in the middle of the week.
Of course as a student, you have those one week breaks between quarters (quarters are 3 months each). But then again, not having classes doesn’t mean work stops. Research continues. Lab work continues (even with greater gusto). The only difference is that you don’t end up frantically searching in your planner the next date for the impending quiz or the exams every now and then.
And when you research in the area I do, most of the times there are no weekends as well. You can take the weekend off if you study political sciences or sociology. But lab animals do not understand holidays. They have to be fed and taken care of and monitored every day. If you plan to study the effect of solvent intoxication on the liver of a rat on day 4, it doesn’t matter whether day 4 is a weekday or not. If you know that a certain insect sheds its shell (ecdysis) between 5-6 in the morning, you have to be there between 5 and 6 am. You just can’t take off and come back after a vacation to Portland. You can momentarily stop its growth by putting it in the temperature controlled incubator for a few hours. But that is only if you need to run to grab some lunch at the nearest food place.
I have never awaited the weekends as eagerly as I do here. Because the work load in the weekends is usually low, and you do not have to start running and getting things done the first thing in the morning. Weekends doesn’t mean I run off to some island. It means I have more time to organize my life, clean my home, cook proper meals, and put my books and papers in some order. Weekends, I take my time and sleep until late. Late being 8 am.
I am not complaining. I have learnt the art of working my ass off 5 days a week, 12 hours a day, surviving on sandwiches and eating meals in between running errands. There will always be deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you have to stay back in the lab and sleep on the couch. If you have a deadline, you better complete it. Excuses like stomach aches and granny is ill do not work here. Everyone is working very hard. There is no babugiri, government officers idling time, dozing off in offices or playing cards on the computer (Clerks in CU do that). You run with the rest, and try to outrun them. Come Wednesday and I am like- oh, is it just the middle of the week? Come Thursday and I am like- oh, just one more day. And come Friday, I am like- oh man, it is going to be over. Every time it is Friday evening, I return home with the knowledge that there would be two days of peaceful sleep, hearty meals, a walk by the beach, and most importantly, the knowledge that I have survived yet another hectic week.
Welcome to the work culture in the US.