When my father called my grandfather at the retirement home, there was often confusion.
“Why are you calling so late?”
“The store doesn’t close until ten o’clock, Dad. I just got home”
Both men spent their lives working in retail but the game has changed. When my grandfather worked at Sears in the 1960s and 1970s, stores were open five days a week, ten to six, with special evening hours on Wednesday. Today most big box stores keep their doors open seven days a week for thirteen hours at a stretch. During the holidays they might open at four in the morning and close at midnight. Sometimes they never close.
“But they pay you overtime for working that late, don’t they?”
Imagine if in 1965 a company announced that starting the next day, most full-time positions would be replaced with part-time shifts paid at a reduced hourly wage. Imagine if this store also announced that it was busting its unions, staying open on holidays, slashing retirement benefits, and forcing its remaining full-time employees to pay more for less healthcare coverage—all while exponentially increasing the salaries of its top management, most of whom will now operate out of a remote office in Delaware where they will manage a variety of unrelated companies and spectral investments. There would probably be a riot. Instead, these changes happened in drips and drabs until we became accustomed to working harder for less. This is why every time my father called his father, he needed to remind his old man why he woke up at five in the morning and sometimes did not get home until eleven at night.
In 1941, my grandfather drove across the country to see the World’s Fair. There were no highways, the car broke down constantly, he slept in fields, and he said it was the best trip of his life.
My first memories are drenched in yellow and orange. This is a side effect of being born in 1977, a time when images possessed a slightly nauseating aura.