There have been several accounts on Retail Hell about the hell of working 4th of July sales.
Well my recent excursion into Washington DC to see the the fireworks display helped me identify a few other groups whose plight deserves some recognition.
1. Military members - Even as Ben Vereen repeatedly instructed the audience to thank any service members they know, the US Army Blues Band was backing up all of his songs and guess who was helping the police with crowd control going into the park? If you guessed the Nationa Guard, you're right. On a day when everyone and their brother talks big about the contributions of people in the military, there are many actual military members who have to work while the people talking about them are sipping beers at a barbecue. I understand that this is necessary, and there are even more who work on the 4th doing even more essential jobs than crowd control around the Washinton Monument.
2. Police - Again, police working on holidays is necessary and vital for our society to continue fuctioning. However, it seems nice to acknowledge the ones who sweat their collective balls off working bag check tents, and have to rifle through a million beach bags while whiney tourists glare at them for rifling through said beach bags.
3. Transit Employees - Good God! If any group deserves a medal for the work they do on Independence Day it's this one. DC was hot, but that's to be expected. And everyone, including people working, were sweaty but mostly in good spirits on the way to and during the celebrations. Immediately afterward, however, a group march to any and all Metro stations formed.
This was not so bad outside where there was a breeze and enough room for everyone. As soon as we got to the escalators at the Metro station, however, it turned into a something reminiscent of a factory farm cattle yard. You could literally feel the heat as soon as you reached the top of the escalator, but by then you were already too committed and had to go in. This was made worse, I'm sure, but the fact that the 4th of July fell on a Wednesday this year so many people, myself included, couldn't just hang out until the crowd thinnned. We had to get on the earliest possible train so that we could get home in time to shower and sleep a little before getting up early for work the next day. After sweating on the trek down the escalators we reached the climated controlled station, which caused everyone gathered to simultaneously have an orgasm (AC-gasm?). Whatever you want to call it, the moaning it produced sounded like the unholy union of a porno and a zombic flick.
Eventhough they opened up all the ticket barriers, the station was packed wall to wall. I am not exaggerating when I say thing people were pressed RIGHT up against each other. At one point I saw a tiny woman with her face pressed into the back of a fat guy whose side I was pressed up against. Never in my life had I been more gald to be tall. As we waited for the crowd to move a group of girls observe there was a large fan a few feet away and called for someone to turn it on. I commented that it had been a second ago, and the fat guy speculated "Some idiot probably kicked the plug out."
Apparently that was the case because it came back on a second later, triggering another mass AC-orgasm.
When the crowd finally oozed to the escalator down to the platform, we passed a transit employee who was pinned up against the balcony by the sea of humanity, and shouting instructions over the side "Just get on the train, you can transfer later." Thankfully, everyone seemed to be taking his advice. As he was pushed past by the flow of the crowd one dude patted him on the back and said "You're doing a great job" Props to you Awesome Dude.
The train ride was equally crowded and sweltering. Overall people were mostly understanding and dealt with the situation as best as possible, though any time you bunch a lot of hot, tired people together tempers are going to flare, so I saw examples of both the good at and bad in humanity.
- The woman who at one stop pushed me away from the bar I was gripping to get to the door before the train had fully stopped. Causing me to, when the train did lurch to a stop a second later, fall into a group of French tourists. The French tourists were gracious about me falling on them, I was less than gracious about the woman pushing me.
- A woman on the platform screaming at the top of her lungs "Let me though, I have a stroller!!!!!" This did not make her special because there were tons of people in the crowd with strollers.
- The guy on the train who, when a group at the back called out loudly that the next stop was theirs and they needed to be let off, added "With a stroller!" causing the entire train to burst into laughter.
- When the train operator, after repeatedly asking people to go to the front cars rather than over crowding the back, came onto the intercom and said exasperatedly, "Customer, step away from the train!!!" and the girl next to me turned to the older man with her, presumably her father, and said, in a rare display of empathy, "This must be the worst day ever for train operators. Just the fact that there's so many people on the platform and they're all pushing and shoving would be terrifying for me." Props to you Awesome Girl.
- A Hellspawn who, leapt over the ticket barrier (at my stop they were broken so most people did this) and when his mom said "You can't do that!" he replied "Heck, I can't!" I don't condone talking to your mother that way, but given the circumstances I can understand. If I hadn't been wearing a skirt I would have hopped it too. Apparently his mother agreed because she said "Oh fine!" and leapt over herself, leaving me to shove my way to a gate an employee had opened and make a mad dash to my car with its guaranteed air conditioning and personal space.
Overall, the 4th of July celebration in DC was spectacular. I'm glad to have enjoyed it because I'll probably never do it again, and to all the people I mentioned who don't have this option you have my deepest, deepest condolences and I hope you get very good overtime pay!
--Baby Store Slave