In 1877 a New York cigar manufacturer grumbled that his cigar makers could never be counted on to do a straight shift’s work. They would “come down to the shop in the morning, roll a few cigars,” he complained to The New York Herald, “and then go to a beer saloon and play pinochle or some other game.” The workers would return when they pleased, roll a few more cigars, and then revisit the saloon, all told “working probably two or three hours a day.” Cigar makers in Milwaukee went on strike in 1882 simply to preserve their right to leave the shop at any time without their foreman’s permission.What are you going to? They got thirsty. When did coffee come into the picture? I'm guessing there's already a book called "How Coffee Created the Modern World" or something. Lutz has a book, "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America," which I hope is full of stories like that, though there's nothing relevant about coffee -- I learned, from pursuing my curiosity through the ultra-easy "Search Inside the Book" tool at Amazon. Despite that lack, I'm interested in the book. Slackerishly, I wonder: Is there a downloadable audio version?
In this the cigar workers were typical. American manufacturing laborers came and left for the day at different times. “Monday,” one manufacturer complained, was always “given up to debauchery,” and on Saturdays, brewery wagons came right to the factory, encouraging workers to celebrate payday. Daily breaks for “dramming” were common, with workers coming and going from the work place as they pleased. Their workdays were often, by 20th-century standards, riddled with breaks for meals, snacks, wine, brandy and reading the newspaper aloud to fellow workers.
An owner of a New Jersey iron mill made these notations in his diary over the course of a single week:
“All hands drunk.”
“Jacob Ventling hunting.”
“Molders all agree to quit work and went to the beach.”
“Peter Cox very drunk.”
“Edward Rutter off a-drinking.”
At the shipyards, too, workers stopped their labor at irregular intervals and drank heavily. One ship’s carpenter in the mid-19th century described an almost hourly round of breaks for cakes, candy and whiskey, while some of his co-workers “sailed out pretty regularly 10 times a day on the average” to the “convenient grog-shops.” Management attempts to stop such midday drinking breaks routinely met with strikes and sometimes resulted in riots. During much of the 19th century, there were more strikes over issues of time-control than there were about pay or working hours.
A book I do have -- right here on the shelf -- it's one of my favorites -- is "Essays in Idleness," which was written in the 1300s by a Buddhist monk named Kenko. It starts off:
What a strange, demented feeling it gives me when I realize I have spent whole days before this inkstone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have entered my head.How many words in that sentence do you need to change to make it all about the blogger? That's no Zen koan. The answer is too obvious: one! But there is a deep mystery in Kenko's sentence. "Nothing better to do" can be understood to mean not that one has nothing good to do but that this is the very best thing.
How much do you value your free time? Do you use it to rest and recover or do you use it to do work that, because it's done in your own time -- in time you own -- is transformed into pleasure?