It rained on my house this week. Not a lot, but after the driest summer since Prohibition it felt like a deluge.
Take it as distant thunder, a warning of what lies ahead — short days, long pants, longer faces. The back-to-school ads read like obituaries for our Huck Finn freedom.
The question now is whether you took advantage of the glorious summer that God gave us or — blasphemy! — frittered it away at work. Here’s a check list:
* Did you get sand in your shoes?
* Are you still using last year’s sunblock?
* Did you have to refill the barbecue tank?
* Is your fishing tackle rusty, your sleeping bag musty?
* Did you throw an outdoor party? Are you too embarrassed to give the bottle-drive kids all your empties at once?
* Did you take vacation?
That last one is interesting, as surveys show Canadians often don’t take the holidays to which they are entitled — and relative to the rest of the developed world, we’re not entitled to that many.
When the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic Policy and Research compared the
minimum number of holidays required by law in 21 wealthy countries, Canada ranked third from the bottom. With a combined total of 19 vacation days and statutory holidays, we trail only Japan and the U.S., according to a survey released this summer.
By contrast, all European Union countries demand at least four weeks paid vacation. Austria and Portugal have a minimum of 35 paid vacation days and stats. Spain and Germany have 34.
And get this: five of the countries in the survey even make employers pay vacationing workers a small premium to offset holiday-related expenses. (The sound you hear is the exploding heads of Canadian employers, not to mention the self-employed and unemployed.)
According to Expedia.ca’s online 2013 “vacation deprivation” survey, Canadians get an average of 17 vacation days annually — half as many as most Europeans enjoy.
What’s more, 27 per cent of Canadians don’t take all the holidays they earn, largely because they are too busy at work or there aren’t enough staff to cover their jobs. Just over half of the British Columbians surveyed have cancelled vacations because, gosh, they couldn’t possibly leave work without the whole company collapsing.
Which brings us to Labour Day, when you are supposed to swap your swim trunks for corporate climbing gear (suit, tie, underwear) and go back to the grind.
The question, whether you have a job to return to or not, whether you took an actual vacation or not, is how you spent a summer so glorious it belonged in a beer commercial.
Did you carouse, neglect the yard, call in “sick” from the beach, outsleep the dog, lose your sunglasses to an outhouse, and jump into the lake with all your clothes on — or did you squander summer?
It’s not too late. Draw up a bucket list of what you want to achieve before the season dies. Get outside, as far from the pavement as you can. Wear short pants. Or no pants (but don’t forget sunscreen). Sleep under the stars, or at least the moderately well-known.
This summer has been a gift. Open it.
Jack Knox, Kamloops born and raised, writes for the Victoria Times Colonist.