Saturday! Freedom! Who wouldn’t like Saturday? It’s party day!
Actually, I don’t really like Saturdays at the moment. My usual haunts become busy with people manically trying to cram as much freedom into their day off as possible. My favourite spot in the park will be teaming with families and picnickers and people on cell phones. There won’t be a spare seat to be found in the library by the time I’ve woken up and got there. It’s a weird inversion.
It got me thinking that for a long time though, Saturdays simply haven’t been my day.
As a boy, the main Saturday activities would be to go shopping with my parents. For a long time, this wasn’t so terrible in itself and often involved a nice lunch in a pub or a cafe somewhere, but would usually involve my being pulled away from my favourite Saturday morning television programmes. I may be anti-telly now but I lived and breathed for those Saturday morning cartoons: Wacky Races, Fender-Bender 500, Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget. The one I regretted missing the most was the Adam West Batman series. It must have started at about 9:30 because the TV would always be switched off halfway through despite my love of those “POW!” and “ZAP!” splashes during fight sequences. Being pulled away from Batman halfway through—my requests to wait just another ten minutes cruelly disregarded—would usually put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Eventually, shopping with my parents would result in my being spotted by more independent school friends hanging out together in the town. As a 14-year-old, I found this intolerably embarrassing, so I summoned up the courage to tell my parents I’d start staying at home on Saturdays.
I must have enjoyed a couple of years worth of mostly-free Saturdays, though it was around this time I had a paper round, so I still had to get up at some ungodly hour to schlep a heavy bag of Dudley News around rich people’s houses on the hill.
By the time I was 17, I took a Saturday job at a big bookshop on the far side of town. This meant early rises, commutes across town (though my dad kindly drove me there most times—thanks, dad!) and seven- to ten-hour shifts in the stockroom or on the cash register. I’m not complaining: I enjoyed receiving a salary for the first time (about £300 a month from what I can remember, which isn’t terrible) and the work eventually became easier when the older staff all left for university and I became the de-facto senior with various unwritten privileges. It was still a shame to have whole days of youth noshed up by work though.
I kept this Saturday job until I was 21 and left home for Glasgow. In Glasgow, I worked full-time in a library so Saturdays were spent in the same fashion I witness in the Montreal workers today: a manic attempt to do the things that work prevented me from doing all week. I also wanted to be a writer so I’d spend Saturday nights at my desk, tinkering with a terrible novel that never saw the light of day. When my contract at the library ended after a year, I continued to live in Glasgow but subsisting on (can you guess?) a weekend job.
Eventually a two-year career in an office freed up my Saturdays again, but they of course became recovery days from the week’s work and the evening’s manic revelry, followed by a further recovery day on Sunday, followed by the whole cycle starting over again. I ended up consciously reclaiming the sabbath (the Jewish one, naturally) by deliberately not lifting a finger on Saturdays. For a while they were mine again.
Here in Montreal, Saturdays are technically mine (as with all other days), but so marred are they by the manic workers mussin’ up my territory that I tend to stay indoors. A comedian once picked on me for wearing a suit in his audience on a Saturday. “I’m retired,” I explained, “The weekend means nothing to me”.
Last Saturday evening, as I lay in bed with the window open, I could hear the sirens of fire-engines, police cars and ambulances all around. On Sunday, I noticed, the neighbourhood was silent. So keen are the workers to revel on their only night off that they end up in jail or hospital.
Do buy the brand-new Issue Four of New Escapologist from the shop.