The first year I had to work through winter vacation, at the age of twenty-three, after a lifetime as a student with at least two weeks off for the holidays, my naiveté took great umbrage. I asked the other, older employees at the publishing company where I worked, Rizzoli, whether it was busy between Christmas and New Year’s, thus necessitating our staying on premises. “No,” was the response. “But it’s so great to be here when there’s so little to do. Everybody at other companies is on vacation, so there are no incoming phone calls, and we just hang out and order in lunch and sometimes we leave early to catch a movie.”
This was a good thing? My eight-hours-a-day coworkers were not among the people I didn’t spend enough time with. Recreational thumb-twiddling in the office during the holidays wasn’t my idea of a good—or efficient—time. Since Knock Knock’s inception, we’ve always given the gang a paid week off between Christmas and New Year’s. There are some folks who need to hold down the fort, but we figure out a tag-team arrangement for coverage. For the first seven or so years, I myself was the only person who worked straight through—the perils of entrepreneurship.
Working during “summer vacation” still carries with it a certain disconnect for me even though I worked summer jobs from the eighth grade through the end of college for all but three summers. The summer jobs (multiple stints as a camp counselor; clothing store clerk, record store clerk, newspaper assistant) were still different enough from school to feel like a sort of vacation. Plus I dawdled adequately to get a little time off after the end of the school year despite my mother’s nagging (her favorite line: “They’re hiring at McDonald’s”).
The summer after my first year of college, I was supposed to be looking for a job when I was instead lying out at my friend Vicki’s pool. I walked through her (closed) sliding glass door and cut four tendons in my right wrist, requiring a cast, and sliced up my left knee, which resulted in a splint. Without the ability to stand for long periods, type, or work a cash register, I was pretty much an unhirable nineteen-year-old. My mother got tired of seeing me mope around the house so we decided I’d take intensive French at UC Berkeley—seven hours a day plus homework. The French studies were actually wonderful, and I met one of the great loves of my life. I was so happy that my mother was known to mutter, “I think you walked through that glass door on purpose so you wouldn’t have to get a job.”
The publishing industry has a history of “summer Fridays”—letting people off of work at Friday midday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Rizzoli was one of the publishers that did not participate in this industry ritual, natch, but we’ve done it at Knock Knock for at least seven years, and decided as a teama couple years ago that we’d rather have every other Friday completely off than have all half-day Fridays, so now that’s our thing.
Summer in adulthood is a little like the weather in Los Angeles—the changing of the seasons is still palpable, but it’s muted. If you don’t have children, you get further and further away from the sense that Memorial Day and Labor Day have any start-and-finish meaning, and that the time between the two is different from the rest of the year. My favorite summer feature, though, is still available to childless grownups: late-night lightness and warmth. I love getting off work when there’s still time to walk and bike ride and patio and cavort. Paco gets used to long after-work walks and then suffers a rude shift when the evening constitutionals dwindle after the first weekend in November (speaking of which, I hate that in 2007 the time change moved from before Halloween to after—it’s so much better to trick-or-treat in the dark!).
Summer in Venice, California, is beyond glorious. We’re so lucky here.
We at Knock Knock would like to wish you at other places a happy, healthy, on-time-flying, nonsunburned, lip-smacking, affordable, lots-of-time-off-having, thrilling summer. Actually, I don’t know if the others at Knock Knock wish you that, because I always write these things too last-minute to do any kind of a poll, but I feel it’s safe to assume that they do. Mostly because they’re really nice people who get every other summer Friday off.