Tuesday, 15 August 2006

A Bygone Era

Today I feel a bit down. Much of this is due to the fact that it is allergy season. Much of it is due to the fact that I am none too happy with the state of my life. I realise that more often than not when I mention the way I feel in this blog I am unhappy. Believe it or not, there was a time when I was happy, but that seems to have been long ago.

Anyhow, today my mind turns to an episode of The Andy Griffith Showw called "Man in a Hurry." In this episode a businessman from out of town, Malcolm Tucker, becomes stranded in Mayberry on a Sunday when his car stalls. He becomes increasingly frustrated as he tried to get his car fixed. It seems that the local mechanic, Wally, takes Sunday off and simply won't fix the car until Monday. Today this episode might seem a bit quaint to many, but there was a time when many places in America simply shut down on Sunday. Indeed, there was a time when businesses even in big cities would close on that day.

Of course, much of the reason for this was the fact that at one time the separation of church and state in the United States was not quite as clearly drawn as it is now. As a result many areas of the United States passed what is known as blue laws. These were laws that were meant to enforce observation of the Christian Sabbath. Because of these blue laws many businesses were strictly forbidden from operating on Sunday (exceptions were often made for grocery stores and drug stores). Even today many states still forbid the selling of alcohol on Sunday. Here I must point out that even when blue laws did not forbid a business from opening on Sunday, many such businesses would voluntarily close on this day. An example of this is from the aforementioned Andy Griffith Show episode. It is clear from the episode that Mayberry does not forbid the repair of cars on Sunday, yet Wally does not open his shop on that day. Quite simply, between blue laws and business simply closing on Sunday voluntarily, there was a time in the United States when very few businesses would be open on Sunday.

I am not Christian, but I must admit that there is an appeal in setting aside a day when very few businesses are open. Something I have observed that has changed from when I was a youngster is that American life moves at a much faster pace than it once did. There was a time when, like Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, life was downright laconic in American small towns. That time has long since passed. While the pace is much slower in small town America than it is in, say, New York City, it is still much faster than it once was. Setting aside a day when the majority of population could relax and rest and take a break from things could well be a good idea. Whether that day is Sunday really wouldn't make any difference to me. To me it's not the particular day off that would matter, it is simply having a day off when the usually fast pace of American life could, if not come to a halt, at least slow down.

Of course, I must admit that if this came to pass, I might well eat my words. I must admit that while I like the idea of people having a day off, I never much cared for blue laws. I like the convenience of being able to buy things on Sunday, without having to wait for Monday before I can do so. I rather suspect most Americans probably share in this view. Perhaps rather than having a day off Americans should just slown down. If Americans have greater health problems than other countries it could well be because so many of us insist on living at a pace to which the human body is not suited. Productivity and efficiency are admirable traits, but there comes a time when stopping and smelling the roses is important as well.


Jeremy Barker said...

You are so right. These days I find it hard to get a group of friends together as someone is always working late or on the weekend. And for what? Nobody ever says "I wish I spent more time at the office."

Jody said...

I am a Christian and sadly many of us do not set aside a day to reflect and smell the roses. I think we all get caught up in busy-ness and trying accomplish everything fast, and we feel lazy or incompentent and little guilty if we aren't moving at mach 10 through life. I think we all need to find a balance...