A Nation of Endless Holidays

Poster de Primeiro de Maio: o poder soviético toma conta do mundo, será um sinal?While driving down the Industry Union* highway, on my way back from a visit to the dentist (remember, I’d broken a tooth before the latest, endless series of holidays; with our dentist out of town due to the slacker decree, I’d been running my tongue over that sharp edge for quite a while), I asked my American husband:

“Alan, how many holidays a year are there in the United States?”

“Hmm. . .four, I think. Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day. Maybe Christmas.

“What about Good Friday?”

He reminds me that the United States is not a catholic country.

“And May 1st?”

Come on, May 1st is a communist holiday. America also celebrates Labor Day, but it’s on the second Monday of September. Next year, it will overlap with the Brazilian Independence Day. I wonder if that’s a sign?

There are other holidays, of course, mostly local. He forgot to mention the 4th of July and Memorial Day; his memory is not that great anymore, let’s face it. But none of those holidays necessarily mean skipping work; most of them fall on Mondays, so four-day weekends are rare. Brazil has been doing its best to borrow Black Friday (yet another Friday off), but it’s actually the day of the year in which people work the hardest, whether they are buying or selling.

Precisely. Not that any of it affects me — I work on Saturdays, Sundays and Holy Days, anyway, and if Sunday has been exceptionally difficult, I’ll take Monday off — except, of course, for the deluge of tourists at our local produce market, which forces me to shop outside the holiday rush hours.

This year has seriously been a slog, so far. This Easter Week was very long, conjoined as it was with Tiradentes and Saint George days — way too many martyrs celebrated in sequence. It lasted longer than most American vacations. After all, unlike in Brazil, people work hard in the United States, and often get to see results. Now, after only a brief seven-day interval, we reach yet another four-day weekend, this time for May 1st. Not even Mao would be up for that!

Not to mention the World Cup is coming, oh, goodness. It’s settled: no work will get done this year.

It doesn’t mean I’m opposed to the Brazilian people’s relaxed ways. But, as you know, I have my work cut out for me. If I don’t get it done, no one else will front the bills. It’s nonetheless exhausting. Even my latest health concerns are probably caused by stress. This is how tired I’ve been, and I really want to change.

Working day in, day out, come rain or shine, without neither a spare moment to fool around nor unplug, is unhealthy indeed; it has profoundly and negatively affected my life, my marriage, just about everything. It even ruined my lovely sojourn in Paris. I don’t know if I told you, but when I suddenly realized there was nothing pressing to do, I was left with an unmerciful hole that couldn’t be filled, despite the generous offer of leisure, pleasure and culture right outside the apartment.

As for Brazil, many people haven’t realized it yet, but it’s the country of the future. I mean it. This week, for instance, our leading edge became clear, when the American media heatedly protested against the FCC’s proposal of rules for preferential use of the Internet’s “information avenues.” Poor guys, they haven’t read the Brazilian Marco Civil da Internet, a bill approved about a month or so ago, and are still stumbling through useless, backward proposals on the wrong side of modern financial trends.

I’m not sure you remember, but President Obama used to be smarter. On his inaugural speech in January of 2009, he poached our miraculous Brazilian wisdom: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” It’s a verse of a famous song, “Levanta, sacode a poeira,  a volta por cima.” I was so surprised when I listened to the speech live that I even mentioned it in the book I was then writing, American Luau.

Back to Brazilian holidays and their propensity to become four-day weekends, or longer, the outcome (for the hardworking among us) is a mandatory and degrading lack of cash. I remembered that guy who once said that technological advancements would mean working less. Man, he was so drastically wrong, his name isn’t worth a mention. No, really: I couldn’t even find it on Google. This is why and where Brazilian expertise will come in handy, got it? We’re living in the future already, while the rest of humanity trudges through too much work. All hail long weekends.

On the other hand, the truth is, none of it, neither working too much nor enjoying four-day weekends, matters at all in these risky, flammable times we live in. According to Alan, and several other sources, Vlado Putin is dead set on starting World War III. As you can see, these are dire, dark times. Look at what I have to deal with, no wonder I hide under piles of work, since whenever I have a free moment for a companionable conversation, he immediately tries to convince me that humanity’s future has already been set in stone, and it’s not good.

Now, let me remind you of yet another famous frustrated prophet. Check out what I found while researching for this piece on the internet; you know, while I can still afford unlimited access: Guglielmo Marconi, who invented the radio, said “The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous,” I do so wish he hadn’t been wrong. Alan, on the other hand . . .

Something to think about. Tchau.


*União Indústria is the road that connects our paradise in the mountains to the center of Petropolis, the “emperor’s city” in the State of Rio.


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