Yesterday was a holiday, I discovered when I started my police rounds. Let me see the hands of those who are a) employed in the private sector; b) had yesterday off; and c) don’t live in Columbus, Ohio.
Yes, I thought so. Columbus Day is one of those holidays we give to public-sector employees in lieu of more money. [Pause.] Just looked at that sentence, and reflected for a moment on the traditional deal we make with public-sector employment: Less money, more holidays, better benefits. For a long time, that was the way of the world. The recession may reorder things a bit. I know many, many people in the private sector who have, in the last year, had to swallow pay cuts. Not a no-raise year, not a watch-your-raise-be-eaten-by-health-care-cost-increases year, but an across-the-board decrease, accompanied by a bigger bite from health care, for a grand total of, well, a lot. Ten, 15 percent, in some cases.
Public-sector workers have been insulated from that, somewhat, at least the ones with contracts. A while back I related my jaw-drop moment while reading about the benefits bestowed upon Detroit city employees, including health care for children up to age twenty-damn-FIVE, and more days off than Ronald Reagan enjoyed in his last years in office. The new mayor, Dave Bing, has baldly stated this is unsustainable. In my own little burg, 2010 means contract-negotiation time, and while no one’s said it out loud yet, there are whispers of haircuts all around. Many other states have had public employees on unpaid furloughs already, however; I’m a follower of Amy Welborn’s Twitter feed, and down in Alabama, I gather she’s been trying to get her driver’s license renewed, enduring Soviet-style lines in the few offices that remain open, and still hasn’t been successful.
All this by way of saying that if you got Columbus Day off, and you got paid for it, I hope you did something wonderful, because that feels like a holiday past its sell-by date.
In the newspaper business, we never got the B-level holidays off — Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, MLK Day and so on. Plus we got the lousy paychecks, too. You see why we’re so surly and wear cheap shoes.
A shabby guy on a crummy bicycle just rode past my house, checking out the recycling bins. Hard times in Michigan.
So. I want to tell you what we did this past weekend, now that I’ve finally exposed the secrets of middle-school dances. After watching “Whip It” the week before, we thought we might check out the local roller derby. And so we did: The Detroit Roller Girls met the Dairyland Dolls of Madison, Wisconsin Saturday at the Masonic Temple. It was a doubleheader, the two travel teams and then the varsity, and it was? Wonderful. Better than “Whip It,” because it wasn’t pretty actresses playing tough, but real tough girls who, you can tell, do not require a security guard to escort them to their cars after the crowd has gone home.
The bout itself was so lopsided — we left at halftime when the score was 151-8, or some such — that I suspect the Dairyland Dolls sent the junior-junior varsity. The Dolls had no D, they had no O, but they did have helmets festooned with Holstein markings. (Where was Wisconsin in its state marketing before cows became kitschy?) But it was still fun, and I think I discovered my roller-derby name, which you may address me by, but don’t tell its owner, who will hunt me down and kill me for theft. Ready? Keyser Suze.
The Detroit Derby Girls field four separate teams. Best name: Detroit Pistoffs.
And now I commence 72 hours of top-speed work, made that way in part by the Columbus Day holiday. Expect thin gruel for a while.