Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Little-Less-Labor Day

I’m going to rant a little. But there’s booze at the end of it. I promise.

As we head toward Labor Day, I dream of a leisurely transition in which we stretch, take a deep breath of sunblock and bug spray, slowly pull ourselves from lawn chair, beach chair or hammock, and ease back into our work lives, having spent a quiet month because our career workload slows down in August.

But that’s hardly true for anybody anymore.

I read business-page stories now and then about how American productivity has stalled. In them, I rarely find consideration of the number of workers who are already doing the job of three and they just might be tapped out.

We have people who dread vacations because when they return to the office, they’ll have to put in more miserable hours catching up on the work that didn’t get done while they were gone because there isn’t enough staff to do it.

Some companies talk about their commitment to creating a balance between career and personal lives, but for most, it’s largely lip service. I was thinking about that even before I read the New York Times article about Amazon. At least Amazon appears to be upfront: Forget your personal life; if you come to work here, you belong to us 24/7.

And then there’s Walmart’s approach to labor. They recently blamed lowered earnings projections on the increase they made in employee salaries, even though the company hasn’t strayed very far from their old business model, the one where their employees were more like lightly reimbursed volunteers.

If you work in the Consumer sector, don’t even think about getting Labor Day off (or most holidays, come to that). And while you’re on the job, customers will blame you because the place you work is short-staffed and those who are there have been too often astoundingly under-trained. If a business pays low wages, it’s more likely to suffer high turnover. Training new staff well isn’t cheap, so if the company doesn’t want to pay for it, it must rely on overworked employees to carry the new guy till he gets trained by osmosis. There has to have been a cost-benefit analysis done somewhere that says the cost in the number of disaffected customers isn’t great enough to justify adequate training. But I wonder if the people who did the analysis are the same ones who declared subprime mortgages would never default.

Okay, I'm almost done.

The transition into Labor Day ought to be much less stressful for all of us; we ought to have more time to enjoy it.

It seems the least I can do—and it really is the least I can do—is share a recipe for a homemade treat that is easy, easy, and—did I mention—easy. Maybe you'll get to spend a few more precious minutes in the hammock reading a mystery before the guests arrive.

Easy Peasy, Fresh and Squeezy Sangria

Two things to keep in mind: One, if you like your red wine really sweet, this recipe is not for you; two, re-read One.

What you’re going to need.
1 pitcher; a bit of clingy plastic wrap to cover the top
1 ounce of brandy. Use the cognac you bought last Christmas when you planned to look sophisticated
4 tablespoons sugar
1 bottle of red wine (750 ml). Please don’t use any wine you wouldn’t drink straight
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges; leave rind on
1 large orange, cut into 6 wedges; leave rind on
2 cups club soda (added right before serving)

What you’re going to do
Add the brandy to the pitcher
Add the sugar and stir till the sugar is uniformly distributed
Add the bottle of red wine, pouring slowly down the side so you don’t splatter it all over yourself
Stir till wine and sugar mixture are combined
Add lemon and orange wedges. If the fruit is “seedy”, dig out as many seeds as you easily can with your thumbnail
Stir, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate till well chilled, about 4 hours
When time to serve, uncover the pitcher. Squeeze the fruit wedges’ juices into the pitcher. If the fruit was seedy or you have an abiding fear of pulp, squeeze through a strainer. Discard wedges.
Add the club soda, stir and serve (straight or over ice)

This sangria also goes very well with hearty fall and winter dishes, so you can enjoy it as well at Thanksgiving and Christmas when we get Labor Day on steroids.

Copyright 2015 Sheila York


  1. It's true. They call it Labor Day because everybody has to work.

  2. Agree on all your points re the labor and saltmines forces! But, my dear Ms. York , I don't have a hammock... What do you suggest I do? Please help! I feel I will perish sans the hammock!!! tjs

    1. Hahaha. If I had a hammock, I'd hammock in the morning, I'd hammock in the evening, all over this land! First I suggest that you consider this problem with a frosty glass of sangria in hand. All problems seem easier to solve after that. I am a great fan of lots of pillows indoors. I have way more than any human could use. Outdoors, sans hammock, what is the most comfortable chair you possess? Do you need to buy one? Labor Day sales are going on now.

  3. You are a genius - but then, you must already know that! But, Ms. York, I have no outdoors. I have lotsa pillows, but the cops wd pick me up if I sat on them on East 93rd St. They'sd assume I was either homeless or nuts - But, if I went over and sat on them on Lexington Ave, they might just think I was waiting for a cab or a bus! tjs

  4. I know many who don't vacation for just the reason you listed. Sad as life is too short to not find time to enjoy it. I will make your sangria soon! Enjoy your Labor Day!

    1. I am lucky in that my other career gives me 4 weeks of vacation. It should be the norm. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to never ever get days off in a row. I have wonderful plans for Labor Day weekend. Writing. Grilling. Napping. Repeat.

  5. Oh, my goodness me, Ms. York. . I just reread this recipe - and, how shall I say this, I don't like red wine!!! So, I'll just use gin or scotch. What do you think of that? The lady on East 93rd St.