Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday, A Day For Rest

My earliest memory of understanding "work" was dad saying he couldn't take me to a ballgame because they were offering overtime at the factory, and he was going to make some money. I must have been 4 or 5, maybe younger, and from then on I made it a daily quest to understand this "work" business.

I started to pay mind to what people did for fork. My grandfather was a police officer. He arose everyday at 5 a.m. without exception, as did grandma to make his breakfast and lunch. My other grandfather did as well, though he was running a salvage business in Mexico, later in El Paso.

Mom had worked some in a factory as a business administrator, but quit to take care of me, which I found peculiar. I remember thinking, "I can take care of myself!"

At parties I heard murmurs of people's jobs: factories, truck driving, salvage yards, mechanics, and one doctor. Stated simply, nothing too exciting. I remember thinking work is something that was assigned by some mean priest when you went to church, as no one seemed happy to go to work, certainly not what they were working for.

A few years later (I was 8 or 9), dad was laid off by what my mom called, "a good job," at Cummins Diesel. He came home with his things and about $2,000 in severance. The news fascinated me, as I thought $2,000 was an extraordinary amount of money. And, more than that, dad would be home a lot more.

The thought quickly decimated when I saw the looks on their faces. Life lesson, regarding work, #2 was born in my mind. No job meant, no income, meant worry, worry, worry. The $2,000 -- even then -- wouldn't last long. For the first time in my life, I felt worried.

Dad took the $2,000 and invested it with his only brother and father. Najera and Sons Auto Salvage was born out of that need to find stable income. Two acres were purchased in far east El Paso, which is now Socorro, Texas. Slowly but surely, a business flourished. It was a business which saw five streams of income: used auto parts, used car sales, mechanical work, auto body work and scrap metal sales.

For about 5 years, I don't think dad had a day off. Monday through Sunday they toiled and toiled on those two acres until Najera and Sons Auto Salvage established itself as one of the pioneer salvage yard business in El Paso County. Soon after, many others followed, and that section of Alameda Avenue was known as the salvage section.

Other family members joined the cause. The business grew. Finally, the business hours were split between two teams. Dad, myself (later my brother) and a rotation list of employees took one weekend, and my uncle (dad's only brother) and his team the other. For many years (through my high school years), we worked every other Sunday, and for sure, every Saturday. Saturday were big sales days for our business, as many worked on their cars on the weekend.

The stigma of working on weekends has always been a thing of interest to me. Many of dad's friends would come and hang out with us on Sunday. We woke up at 6 a.m. and met for breakfast, then headed to the yard. We usually closed at 2 p.m.-ish. Later, some of my football friends would come around, too.

The yard was a cool place to be for a man. There countless tools and cars to "mess with." Friends' cars always seemed to need something, and being at the yard on Sunday became a thing of routine.

Even so, people have always asked and wondered, "How can you tolerate working on weekends?" Many say they couldn't do it.

To me, working weekends and holidays (which we often did at the yard) was as normal as the Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving. That's just the way it was. I have never known it any other way. Only in my very early years of life did dad NOT work on weekends. For most of my rearing, he did.

Today, he does not. He has a good job with the Socorro school district, and the days of owning and working a business are long gone, for dad.

For me and my brother, we have continued to find ourselves in a position where working weekends is part of the job requirement. I continued to field and answer questions of "why?"

It's not out of martyrdom that I write about this thought. In fact, one of the great failures of a Capitalist society -- in my opinion -- is the need for many people (not just us) to work all kinds of hours and shifts, be it weekend or holiday, in the name of the all mighty dollar. In my small world, it has always been the norm. In a Utopian world, things might be different.

How many people sacrifice they day meant for rest? I'll start with firemen.

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