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Miracle Hour

September 6, 2002

I don’t like Monday holidays. They confuse my sense of Sunday.

On Labor Day, during a break from an odious home improvement task, I flipped on the TV to look for a golf match.

The screen made its fizzy sound and brightened upon a talk show. I pushed a button. Another talk show.

I pushed again; another talk show. I stood perplexed. This was worse than the Sunday TV I remember from my time in the South — NASCAR, football, and church TV.

Then it hit me: It was Labor Day, a Monday. I was terribly disappointed. I wanted golf — the improbable distances, the hush around the greens, the click of an effortless chip shot, the polite swelling of applause — a golf match would have cheered me nicely.

This temporal dislocation happens every Monday holiday, although fortunately I don’t have as many of them now. The library is closed only seven days a year, and four of those are at Christmas and New Year’s.

Closed just seven days a year, open seven days a week and 70 hours per week — I know it seems mystical and full of portent, but in fact it just evolved this way. Our job is about “access,” and so we might as well be open as much as possible.

And to be fair, Sunday TV in the South 25 years ago was ever more mysterious than a mere row of sevens. Stock car racing and country music were strange enough, but they paled for sheer wonder before the Ernest Angley Miracle Hour.

After an interminable sermon, a selection of infirmities were cured on stage to shouts of “Out demon!” Ernest apparently sucked them out with the palm of his hand from the foreheads of the startled.

It’s possible I was too sophomoric then to fully appreciate the Miracle Hour, and I certainly am now.

As for Sunday TV, it’s hard to do better than golf. It’s slow, quiet, contemplative. The commentators are respectful of your peace and speak in soft, dulcet tones. You have ample time for thought between shots.

But Sunday is its own day, not to be bothered by gray Monday holidays. This mess all started with the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968. Already, you know to hate it.

It proposed that Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Washington’s Birthday be Mondays. In fact, this act made Columbus Day a national holiday. It was added as a political compromise.

Hallmark Cards, Inc. must have been drooling at the possibilities for a holiday PAC.

The sponsor, Florida Senator George Smathers, originally had Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July included, too. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Travel Organizations loved it.

Church groups and the D.A.R. hated it, along with a wide variety of traditionalists. The Republican from Georgia, Fletcher Thompson, sponsored an amendment to rename the holidays, “Uniform Holiday No. 1, Uniform Holiday No. 2, etc.”

But the Uniform Holiday Act merely proliferated an unfortunate pattern. The first Labor Day was Sept. 5, 1882, celebrated in New York City. In 1884, the first Monday in September was chosen as the official holiday.

I think we should drop the others, though, and move to Fridays. Psychically, Friday suits a holiday better than Monday. I admit, some people’s Fridays are already like holidays, and so they would be loathe to replace them officially. But some suffering is inevitable with any change.

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