When I was a teenager growing up on Long Island, I worked at an old-fashioned drug store called Arlo Pharmacy in Massapequa Park. While I would hesitate in describing it as famous, it was prominently featured in the movie Young Adult with Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Prominently might be a bit of a stretch as well in that it was observed in the background only briefly, and most likely only visible to somebody who would be on guard for such a sight.
It was while working at Arlo Pharmacy that I first learned about the fact that even if there’s a holiday to be celebrated, the show as they say must go on. Working on Christmas Eve, or even Easter Sunday since my family didn’t acknowledge these celebratory days on account of our Judaism was not a big deal. Meanwhile if I wanted off Yom Kippur, or Rosh Hashana, or even Lag Ba Omer, (It’s the 33rd day of the Omer, a time of semi-mourning during the period of Sefirah where, um, nevermind.) I could take the day off and one of my Christian colleagues in the “Stock-boy” ranks would take my place. At that point, it began to occur to me that unfortunately, there are many in our society who have to work on the holidays, and there really isn’t much that can be done to prevent that.
When you consider who has to work either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you of course begin with your essential personal. You have your armed forces, the police, the fire department, EMT workers, road crews if it’s snowing, as well as your water and electrical custodians, better known as utility workers. These individuals always have to be on the job, and we are thankful and grateful for their service. Of course hospital workers, those who work with the disabled and the elderly also perform their functions 365 days a year, and we owe them a debt of gratitude as well. Those who work for the cable industry, as well as those in radio and television are usually needed to apply their various talents so we at home can listen to music, or tune in to watch television as we digest from our overindulgences. Again, while we are thankful to these individuals, it does seem as though there’s a certain amount of expectation that goes into these career choices that brings with them an understanding that in these lines of occupation, you may have to work on the holidays. That may not make it any better, but at least you understand the game before you begin to play it.
However, there are certain occupations that unfortunately also seem to have given rise to the idea that somebody may need them, and therefore, they have to be open. Here in the Capital Region there are certain places that we expect to never close, and would be outraged if we were to show up there and find them closed for Christmas. I always feel bad for those people, although I’m not even sure why. I’m not a Christian, and it’s not like I have any memories of Christmas as a child that would make me sad to think that somebody was missing out, however, perhaps because I married a Catholic girl and have been celebrating our own particular Christmas traditions for over 30 years, I feel the pain of those who aren’t with their families at a time where it just seems like they should be.