“Men used to work six days a week and sixty-hour days.”

Assuming that this statement was not intended as hyperbolic, hugely exaggerated in order to impress the reader with the endless toil that marked the factory worker’s life, I have to speculate that the missing link is “ten hours a day.” If we apply ten hours a day to six days a week, voilà (or, as they say on Design Network, “WalLAH!”), a sixty-hour…week.

So she was still thinking about those six days, and typed “days” again when she meant to type “weeks.” Simple error, easily corrected.

Except that she didn’t correct it. And so it rode in with the rest of her paper, ready for MY mind to boggle at it. I find myself thinking of Old Testament times, when men lived four or five hundred years but evidently did everything else in increments of seven or forty. Maybe the Industrial Revolution brought in the Antichrist, and life was measured in units of six. The Beast strides among us….

I should be grateful for the chance to rethink old assumptions: Jobs are hard to come by nowadays, but so is available time. When reflecting on the labor conditions of the Industrial Revolution and the harsh working conditions endured by people whose only crime was wanting to eat, I can console myself that at least those men, back in the olden days, had plenty of time.

Of course that was also before unions, child labor laws, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage. A guy could work a sixty-hour day and still not be able to pay his rent, or buy a loaf of bread. Or cake.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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