For a lot of us, America’s midweek birthday leaves us with only one day off, making it more difficult to carve out a three- or four-day weekend without expending precious vacation days. Whether you think this a great summer tragedy sort of depends on you. To those people (present company included), this bit of bad timing feels like some kind of ancient Roman curse cast on us at the creation of the calendar. Surely those Romans, with an assist from various other calendar-tweakers and Declaration signers over the years, planned ahead and figured they’d torture us in 2012. The more expansive among us, though, see this as an excuse to just take some extra days off and create a long, long weekend. Jealous as we are of those people (we're not naming names, but we have colleagues whose bylines are noticeably absent already), let’s evaluate the many potential difficulties a mid-week 4th presents:
How does one travel? For companies that give only the 4th off, the holiday doesn’t actually create a break longer than two days. Among those who aren’t taking any extra vacation, this makes getting away for the weekend impossible.
Of course, if you weren’t planning on traveling anyway, it does create a potentially fun, random midweek break. Two days on, one day off, two days on, and then two days off. “It’s definitely a ‘staycation’ holiday but I sort of like not having travel pressure,” says one lame, glass-half-full colleague of ours with whom we will not be sharing a beer tomorrow.
But then there are the lush among us. Looking at the evidence from the last time July 4th fell on a Wednesday, way back in the ancient world of 2007, news reports show that quite a few people treated themselves to some extra time. The Washington Times looked on the bright side:
While a midweek holiday, as opposed to a Monday or Friday holiday, at first glance appears to hurt the chance of a long weekend, it actually gives employees a chance to enjoy an extra-long weekend, Mr. Challenger [CEO of a consulting firm] said.
“More and more workers are putting a high priority on long weekends,” he said.
Some workers have chosen to take the entire week off, since four vacation days can facilitate time off as long as nine days, he said.
In other words, as Donna Meagle might say:
How nice for them. No really, we’re happy for you, vacationers, and we’re going to let you finish, but...
Does this hurt the economy? You’d think that the loss of a holiday weekend for a lot of workers would rob leisure-based businesses of their typical sales bumps. In 2007, those who treated themselves actually made up for those who didn't and helped the tourism industry. News reports showed that more people than usual actually planned to travel for the holiday because it gave them an excuse to take a longer break. But that was sunny 2007, and this is now. “The economy weighs heavily on families’ travel plans. Consumer confidence has fallen for four straight months as Americans continue to worry about their jobs and retirement funds,” reports The Seattle Times’ Scott Mayerowitz. AAA experts don’t expect to see the same kind of boost they documented in 2007, but they don’t expect a dip from last year either. So maybe this is a neutral point for midweek 4th of Julys. Let us continue, though.
Limited Wednesday revelry? The plethora of kitschy patriotic beer cans tells you that this is a big drinking day for America. But that same America has to be up early Thursday morning, showered, shaved, made up, and at their desks again. What to do? Our own summer advice giver Jen Doll urged readers to celebrate on Tuesday night (we hear you dashing off to make last-minute plans) or just accept the hangover Thursday. That, or just take a vacation day. But isn’t the whole point here that you couldn’t take a vacation day? Otherwise you’d be on a beach somewhere, not hungover at your desk writing about the news. (What? Totally random example!) There’s pretty little upside for those who took their holiday Monday and Tuesday or didn’t take one at all.
Which long weekend though? Obviously the later one if you’re planning to be out late Wednesday night, but really, the hump day means people who are taking two vacation days have their pick of weekends. This seems sad to us, since you'll miss the communal feeling of all of America on vacation with you that you get with other commonly observed three-day weekends. On the bright side, things like traffic and hotel-room bookings are essentially cut in half as it spreads itself between the two weekends, as The Washington Post noted in 2007. Who needs kindred spirits, when you can get a cheap room?
So, yes, most of the flaws we see in this cruel Wednesday holiday have upsides for those who can find them. If for whatever reason you can’t, just remember that July 4th falls on a Thursday next year, so plan ahead and save just one single vacation day for a four-day weekend. It’s what the founding fathers would’ve wanted.