I was young and dumb and longed to be a beach bum.
I was 21, fresh out of college and just three months into my first real job as copy editor of a small daily newspaper. Cooped up in an office most of that time, I was ready for a break. I wandered into my boss’s office – the very same boss who had laid off a couple of my colleagues just a week earlier.
“Hey, Mike, how’s it going?”
I think he growled.
“So, where you going for spring break? Me and some buddies of mine from college are going down to Destin. A much-needed break from the ole working-week grind. Maybe do some fishing, get some sun, that type of thing,” I said, propping my feet on his desk. “What have you got planned?”
His head was buried in some paperwork, but my spring break plans apparently caught his attention. Suddenly, he was looking straight at me, very alert. Maybe he wanted to join us.
“Spring break? You’re making plans for spring break? What are you talking about? You’ve been here three months. You don’t get any vacation,” he said, like he was annoyed or something.
“No, Mike, it’s not a vacation,” I clarified. “It’s spring break. It’s next week.”
His reaction gave me the sneaking suspicion something might be amiss. Mike leaned back in his chair, grinning, and put his hands behind his head.
“So, Len, if we’re all on spring break next week, who’s going to put out the paper every day?”
Why is he asking me this? He’s the boss. I’ve only been here for three months.
“Uh, I don’t know,” I said. “I guess we don’t put out a paper that week, maybe. Is that it?”
Mike laughed – but not the “ha ha, that’s funny” kind.
“No, you idiot. There is no spring break in the real world,” he bellowed. “That’s just for school kids.”
Confused, I think I responded with “how is ... what I am ... ahoy,” trailing off into a defeated mumble.
“Now, back to work,” Mike said, hoisting me by my collar, lifting my lifeless body from the chair, and drop-kicking my butt out of his office as he slammed the door in a cackle.
After I got my head out of the wastebasket, gloom, despair and agony fell on me. This was not fair, I opined. For 17 years, every spring, I had received a week-long break with no responsibilities whatsoever and an unwritten edict to have fun. Then, without warning, it was taken away. At no time during my formal education had they warned me of this. I had heard rumors about the “no summers off” thing – word leaked out about that – but no teacher or professor ever said one word about not having a spring break in the working world. Maybe they didn’t know about it either.
“Hey, Dad, we need to go to the beach or something on our spring break,” my youngest son said the other day, looking over the school calendar, noticing that his spring break is not far away.
“Can’t do, son,” I replied. “I have to work.”
“Work? It’s spring break,” he replied incredulously.
I started to explain to him that the real world doesn’t have spring break, but thought better of it. He might drop out of ninth grade if he knew the cold, hard truth.