MANNO: Labor Day through the years

One step behind Arbor Day, Labor Day has become that arbitrary extra holiday when workers of all shapes and sizes can sit back and enjoy a day free of a functioning modern society. What started in 1894 as a federal observance of contributions made by workers and labor organizations has slowly become a day marked by beef cookouts and 24-hour marathons of CSI: Miami. But whatever your age and whatever your laboring status, this day is something for the books. So as part of this generation, here are some typical ways we young Americans have used Labor Days in the past.

Age 2: What a tragedy. Let’s be honest: for a two-year-old kid, there really isn’t enough labor to dedicate to an entire day. Most days consist of literally being spoon-fed your Cheerios while sitting in a mega-chair five times your height, while you spend afternoons learning the most basic tasks, such as forming sentences and putting on your own pants. But for your parents, the irony of Labor Day hits right where it hurts. At the office, while their coworkers boast of weekend fishing trips, your parents pencil in an extra eight hours of your absurd antics into their week. This day to kick their feet up is dangled in front of their noses, only to be yanked away by your early morning cries and throwing Hot Wheels across the room. But not to worry: once they see signs that you’re finally developing the basic common sense skills needed to be considered human, this day will become less and less stressful for them. Learning to tie your shoes is a good benchmark, so get going, you little genius.

Age 10: If you grew up in a Midwest neighborhood like mine, Labor Day marks the last day to discover the myth that is the ice cream truck. Legend has it the truck would drive by everyone’s house most days in the summer, playing its 2-bit jingle and handing out cold treats to settle the blistering heat. Ninja Turtle, Sonic the Hedgehog and Spiderman – treats in the shape of all of my childhood heroes! But to me, this truly is all legend – the street next to the post office isn’t a favorite route for the Ice Cream Guy. Too many little trucks on one street, I guess. Now, with the heat winding down and Labor Day marking an unofficial end to the summer, this was my last shot. Time to stare out the window until I can hear the jingle. (Obligatory tribute to the Ice Cream Guy, whose job handing out treats apparently exempts him from all Labor Day privileges. Though we’ve never met, I imagine you as the Jolly Olly Man, but with a softer voice and an inclination for jazz.)

Age 20: Luckily I can describe this one right now, firsthand, in real time – and it’s pretty simple. Sleep in, make a sandwich, contemplate last night’s Breaking Bad, and write a blog post. Later, I’ll finish all my studying I’ve put off for three days. Ahh … finally getting to that age to enjoy a good Labor Day. Success.