Them's the Breaks

Illustration by Mike Lee
YOU'RE 36. OR IF YOU'RE NOT, YOU WERE or will be. You averaged 20 hours of work a week between the ages of 16 and 20, 40 from age 20 to 26, and a patho-patriotic 70 hours a week since then. That's about 53,000 hours of work. Did you take your 10-minute breaks? No. You're a Team Player: You've donated over 2,200 hours of your life to the Team. Thirteen solid weeks. Three complete menstrual cycles' worth. An entire basketball season. More than half of 1 percent of your 1,872-week-old life, pissed into the light, antagonistic breeze of gainful employment.

According to Section 12, Paragraph 1 of the State of California's Industrial Welfare Commission Order No. 4-98, Regulating Wages, Hours, and Working Conditions in Professional, Technical, Clerical, Mechanical and Similar Occupations:

 

["The Man"] shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof . . . Authorized rest period time shall be counted as hours worked for which there shall be no deduction from wages.

 

"This Order Must Be Posted," goes the sign, "Where Employees Can Read It Easily." So, of course, it's generally posted in a designated employee break area, so you can't read it unless you're on a break. And you've never taken a break, because you didn't see the sign and you've feared the audacity of requesting such a break might elicit inferences of mutiny from The Man. Unless you've had the foresight to drink/smoke too much or many coffee/cigarettes. Because coffee and cigarettes are what breaks are named after.

A coffee break means spending 10 minutes torquing your synapses so that when you return to work following your break you'll be 20 percent more effective and profitable to The Man. A cigarette break represents the modern worker's homage not only to the Industrial Revolution (honorable working man sucks up a few lungfuls and then back at it until Miller Time: another 16-hour day) but to the fascinating field of respiratory oncology; alcohol breaks are fine if you own a recent-model Mercedes-Benz, a personal assistant and a nanny, otherwise no; heroin breaks are frowned upon by middle management. And do not attempt to stand around out front just staring into space, thinking not-for-profit thoughts with empty hands and face. Such behavior renders you a suspicious character; a threat; a bookworm.

"Hi. I'm the new guy. I'm gonna go stand around outside and stare at shit for 10 minutes or so, okay?"

"You're what?"

"I'm taking a cigarette break."

"Oh. Okay. Say, do you have any smokes? I'm all out."

"Or a coffee break. I might take one of those."

"Sounds good. Say, while you're at it, would you mind taking my recent-model Mercedes-Benz sedan with leather upholstery and a removable Blaupunkt stereo down to the car wash?"

 

Eventually, we must all punch out. Venerable novelty site The Death Clock (www.deathclock.com) had some recent noninvasive HTML-rejuvenation therapy and now features a much tighter, more youthful interface. If you were born after 1899, fill out the form with your birth date and gender, select from three modes (Normal, Pessimistic or Sadistic), and The Death Clock will tell you when it's time to leave. If that's not depressing enough, you can buy your own new moreover improved, 3-D takeout Death Clock, available in regular or extra-sleek, priced accordingly. "Death Clock: the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away."

 

No one knew how to take a break like Timothy Leary. This Memorial Day, the 31st, it'll have been three years since he died (having survived The Death Clock's prediction of August 3, 1994, by almost two years in Normal mode). As dying over Memorial Day weekend reveals an admirable dedication to politeness, perhaps we could stop off for a quick biscuit at Timothy Leary's Home Page (http://leary.com/), find out what he's been up to since his death.

 

Even better than a break: permanent mental vacation. Whistle while you work on the Evolution Faith Test (http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/quest.htm), where you'll be challenged by such questions as "How can evolution explain the metamorphosis of the butterfly? Once the caterpillar evolves into the 'mass of jelly' (out of which the butterfly comes), wouldn't it appear to be 'stuck'?" Created by genuine researchers in the exciting, hi-tech field of creation science, The Creation Science Homepage (http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/) not only reveals Big Problems With Evolutionary Theory (http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/cartoon.htm) that you've overlooked but provides you with the opportunity to know more about the creator! Simply click on the phrase, "I would like to know more about the creator!" and you'll be transported to a page of simple, direct, red and green answers to the traditional blue questions "Do I need to be saved?" "Can I be saved?" and "How can I be saved?" Note: Please report missing links.