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Vacations, Politics, and Old Europe

John Van Horn

As I write this in early August, I begin to wonder if everyone has gone home. The phone hasn't rung in a week, and then it was a wrong number. Every time I contact one of my "stringers" for help with an article, they are either on vacation or will be on vacation.
Thirty percent of my staff is out this week, on vacation, and more leave next week. Frankly, as much as I hate to admit it, maybe the Europeans have the right idea: just close down in August. No, I take that back. As far as I can see, the Europeans have no right ideas, at least the "old Europeans."
Look out, I almost slipped into politics. Well, it is that time of year.
Most of us slept through the Democratic convention and, from the looks of it, will do the same for the Republicans. By the time you read this, the campaign will be in full swing and the name-calling and the back-biting will be at their worst.
I could heap scorn on both their houses, and give you 100 reasons why politics is vile. But I won't. In fact, I rather enjoy it. It gives us a chance to suss out the hypocrites -- almost everyone in the game -- to find out who has just a bit of character and who will do "anything" to be elected. Then we will disregard all that and go vote for the person we decided to vote for back in March.
The pundits say the election is too close to call. That is baloney. It is too close to call because the people doing the calling don't like what they would be forced to say.
I discovered a couple of decades ago that there is more to the U.S. than people living, as I do, within 50 miles of an ocean. That the people in America's Heartland are great. Oh, they don't eat quiche and probably go to church every Sunday. And actually expect their kids to remain celibate through high school. And they can tell a good movie from a bad one without listening to Ebert and Roper.
These folks have one other trait: They know right from wrong, and aren't too interested in shades of gray. They didn't need a congressional investigation to tell them who was at fault for 9/11. They understand the concept of justice and, dare I say it, revenge.
They don't care if you are black or white or yellow or pink. They care only if you are of good character and take care of yourself.
I once told my "parking morality story" to this group. I was in St. Louis or Kansas City, or Salt Lake City, Des Moines or El Paso. Who knows. The story goes like this:
You are in a convenience store for a quart of milk. The clerk is in the back. Now what would you do? Certainly not steal the milk. You would leave the money, or wait, but theft would never enter your mind.
You are now at a parking exit, the gate is up and no attendant is there. It's obvious that someone will be right back. You owe, what, about the cost of a quart of milk. Now what would you do?
When I tell the story in L.A. or N.Y. or D.C. or Boston or S.F. or Seattle, they say, "Hit the gas." And laugh. A lot of the people in "flyover country" didn't even get the point. Of course they would pay, and in fact do.
For those of you fortunate enough to live farther than 50 miles from the ocean, I salute you.
Oh yes, the point of all this. We get all our news and information from the 50-milers. The folks in the middle are ignored. But watch out. This year, they will be heard. You read it here first. Whether you like him or not, Bush will be re-elected by a minimum of 5 percentage points. Get used to it.
'Nuff of this. I will revisit this topic in December and either graciously point out my abilities as a prognosticator or eat crow. I have certainly done enough of that during these past eight years.
Now what about those "old Europeans" and their six weeks of vacation, plus two weeks at Christmas, plus 11 holidays. Sure sounds good, doesn't it?
I was at a party (within 50 miles of an ocean) and a couple from France struck up a conversation. They told me how much they pitied the Americans because we don't get enough vacation. During the discussion, they asked me why I worked. I told them because I enjoyed what I do and got pleasure from a job well done. They told me they worked to pay for their vacation.
Their economy is in the dumpster while ours is roaring and supporting the world. Their population is decreasing and that means they don't have enough people to fill their factories, but still their unemployment rate is twice ours. Doesn't make sense, does it?
If you do a good job and are productive, you actually create jobs; you don't reduce them.
Let's say you have an idea to start up a division of your parking company that provides other services to your customers beside parking. You spend an extra few hours at the office and determine, sure enough, it works. So you hire more people to handle the new tasks, and by working harder yourself, you have created jobs for others. Works every time.
Did you know that it costs less to build a Mercedes in Alabama than in Germany? And the quality is better.
'Nuff of this for now. See you next month.

Article Abstract from September, 2004




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