Labor Day; the phrase evokes thoughts of a long, leisurely afternoon at the beach, a fragrant barbecue at dusk, and the bittersweet combination of having a socially sanctioned day off work and knowing that the relative freedom and peace of summer is coming to a close. Well, for most people it does. For me it merely evokes exhaustion and bitterness, because like many people who work in Santa Barbara’s tourist-driven service industry, I still have to work.
Yes, while most are partying at la playa, I will be processing orders, picking up the Fiesta confetti that still clings stubbornly to everything in the gallery that employs me, and patiently asking the troops of tourists to please stop pawing our photographs. Because I understand the owners’ point that the same tourists who flock to Santa Barbara on long weekends like this one comprise a lot of our business, I’m going to suck up my residual resentment at not being able to spend my brothers’ last day off from school barbecuing at the beach with my family like so many of my friends. And because I’m getting most of my frustration about it out in this column, I’m even going to manage to provide my service with a smile – especially because I know that the equally hardworking folks at Elsie’s will be open tomorrow as well.
But, this whole laboring on Labor Day has got me thinking. We in I.V. live in a place of relative privilege and luxury, where the ocean is within walking distance, the Nordstrom is just a short drive away, and the only real remnant of the so-called ‘real world’ is a small group of fairly affable homeless folks and relatively isolated lower-income families. Sure, we all have our problems, be they financial, emotional, physical, social, or familial. But we also have a lovely little bubble we can call home, with gorgeous scenery and a relatively high glam quotient.
It’s a far cry from the places where many of the people who prepare our food, do our dry cleaning, run our nail salons, and bag our groceries live. Many of those folks probably aren’t getting Labor Day off either, despite the fact that the work they do is the very definition of hard labor in a way that my relatively cushy gig at the gallery definitely is not. So, in honor of Labor Day, I wanted to write a little thank-you note to the people who do labor – long, hard, and often without thanks or fair compensation – every day in I.V. and Santa Barbara. Because, until America’s politicians finally pass and enforce a living wage commensurate with the amount of work these people do, saying “thank you” is the best compensation I can personally offer.
Thank you to the first responders and emergency personnel who work tirelessly to keep us safe and secure. I know it can’t be easy to work in a town where people actually walk off of giant bluffs on a regular basis, and I’m sure Isla Vistans aren’t generally the most grateful group of citizens to protect and serve. But, from the firefighters to the foot patrol, your collective patience and dedication makes you more than worthy of thanks. And a special thank you to the CSO’s, who keep us safe on and off campus, and who are always more than happy to lend an ear or a hand – except for when they’re busy impounding bikes.
Thank you to all the cooks, dishwashers, bus boys, chefs, sous chefs, waiters and waitresses, hosts and hostesses that prepare, serve, and clean up after us hungry Isla Vistans. From the creamy comfort of Naan Stop’s chicken masala to the perfect hangover cure at Cajun Kitchen Cafe, from the succulent sushi at Something’s Fishy to the crowd-pleasing pizzas at Woodstock’s, Gio’s, Domino’s, and Maria’s, you make sure we’re well-fed and well taken care of no matter what cuisine we’re craving. Your hours are long, your jobs are hard, and you almost never get the proper thanks you deserve, not to mention the twenty percent tip I think almost every restaurant employee really does deserve. So, thank you to all the fine folks in local food service, I’ve been on your side of the kitchen, and I truly appreciate every second you spend there.
Thank you to all the manicurists, pedicurists, hairdressers, and salespeople, who spend a good deal of the day on their feet, working hard to make sure that we can spend our money in style. To the people who clean out our tanning beds, to the folks behind the counter at the grocery store, to the guys who change my oil and the woman who rings me up for it. To the girls at I.V. Drip – because I know from experience that you deserve praise for your patience with demanding patrons – and the poor saps at Cold Stone who have to sing for their tips. To the bartenders, especially the ones who put up with us intoxicated Isla Vistans downtown and in I.V. itself. And to the extra-special bartenders at Elsie’s, who seem to have endless patience, even when it takes me twenty minutes to figure out what I want after a long day at work.
Thank you to the gardeners, trash collectors, repairmen and women, exterminators, and mail carriers. To the proverbial proletariat masses who make sure our banking gets done, our grass gets mowed, our packages get delivered, and our recycling is removed from the curb every week. Thank you to the plumbers, to the maintenance people, and to the people who keep Isla Vista’s parks looking so damn pretty. Thank you to whomever the poor soul is who has to clean up the public restrooms all over I.V. and Santa Barbara.
Thank you to the workers building the Carsey-Wolf Center, and putting up new housing and parking lots on campus, as well as all the construction workers, Cal-Trans employees, and city staff who make sure our campus construction gets done, our roads stay well-maintained, and our public works are in pristine condition. To the parking attendants, who probably rarely hear more than a perfunctory thank you, and to the people responsible for keeping downtown from looking like I.V. after a long Saturday night. Thanks to the people who regularly give their time and effort to serve drinks and seat crowds at the S.B. Bowl. Thank you to the people who work as ushers, who take our tickets and sell us our popcorn. Thank you to the newspaper delivery people, to the guys who run the Laundromat and the fluff and fold, and to the local farmers who grow, harvest and sell some of the best food the Santa Barbara’s Famers’ Markets have to offer.
Thank you to the volunteers and the nonprofits. To the people who run the local animal shelters, the folks who staff the Shoreline Preservation Fund, the I.V. Tenants Union and the I.V. Food Co-Op, as well as the people who work to help our community’s homeless population. And an extra big thank you to the doctors, ambulance-drivers, emergency personnel, pharmacists, and nurses at Student Health, Planned Parenthood, and Cottage Hospital, who are always there to provide comfort, advice, and care, no matter what the problem is or how much alcohol went in to causing it.
Basically, I guess I just want to say thank you to all the people for whom every day is dedicated to labor – be it manual or otherwise. Because no matter how many times we might thank them in passing, it will never be enough to truly convey how much we depend on them in our day-to-day lives. Because, I might have to work on Labor Day, but these people have to labor every single day. And because of that, the least I can do is say a great big thank you: and keep on tipping.