The first clue that Monday wasn’t going to be a normal workday came during the morning rush hour.
There wasn’t one.
Today’s the official holiday, but numerous employees took Monday off to create a four-day weekend.
And why not? It wasn’t like business was booming on the day before the Fourth. Banks were virtually lineless and government offices nearempty. Stores that were open weren’t crowded.
“We’ve been slow, slow, slow,” said Andy Petersen, examining the day’s receipts at Take A Break, a downtown espresso shop. “Our loyal customers just aren’t coming in today.”
Petersen planned to close the store three hours early, although he said he didn’t mind working on a day most took off. The slower pace was a nice change.
“It doesn’t stay like this for long,” he said.
Other Monday workers shared Petersen’s sentiments. Janice Coppleman spruced up bathrooms and watered plants at the Seafirst building on West Riverside.
“I work better when it’s quiet,” she said. “Besides, somebody’s got to keep this place clean.”
Heidi Hern, 19, tried to look on the bright side.
“I have tomorrow off so I’m not too upset,” she said as she checked to make sure kids left with their parents at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza in the Shadle Park Shopping Center.
The weather also consoled her. “It makes it a lot easier to come to work when it’s cloudy,” she said.
Up to half the employees in some government offices opted for the four-day holiday. But most taxpayers didn’t want to conduct business anyway.
Only a few workers straggled in to City Hall, said City Manager Roger Crum. Those who could take the day off did.
“Most people don’t even know we’re here,” said Crum, who along with his assistant, Joan Poirer, were the only staffers in his office. “It’s one of the quietest days I can remember.”
Across the way in the city’s legal department, secretary Kendra Hitchens answered a few stray phone calls.
“We’ve got three lawyers and three support staff here,” Hitchens said with a broad grin. “We keep asking ourselves, ‘Why are we here again today?”’
Some had no choice.
Ron Church, who manages the Shadle-Garland Post Office, said he had a full staff working Monday. The only thing out of the ordinary was a barrage of phone calls from people wanting to know if mail was being delivered.
By 10 a.m., he’d assured at least 50 people that yes, their mail was coming.
“People should know our holidays are the holidays,” Church said. “We don’t have any in-betweeners.”
City garbarge collectors worked Monday, knowing today’s Fourth of July holiday meant they’d have to make their rounds again Saturday to get their job done.
“That means overtime,” said one truck driver on East Hamilton who didn’t want his name used. “But this job is so hard, it’s not fair to have just one day off on the weekend.”
Other employees, like a few in the math department at Washington State University, spent Monday finding answers to important questions.
One visitor wanted to know the odds of having July 4 fall inside a three-day weekend. Graduate student Jim Davis spent 15 minutes with a pencil and calculator, but despaired of finding an exact answer.
“Roughly four out of seven is a pretty good guess,” he said.
For retailers, Monday was business as usual. In fact, the prospect of working on the Fourth of July itself didn’t faze most store owners and employees at NorthTown Mall.
“If you’ve been in retail long enough, you know that there is no such thing as a holiday,” said the manager of Weisfield Jewelers, a NorthTown store on the mall’s first floor. Company policy forbid her from giving her name.
“There’s no normal work-week in retail. It’s just something you have to adjust to,” she said.
Store owners - many of whom worked Monday in order to give their employees a few days off - agreed retailing is a vacationless industry regardless of rank or salary.
Atsuko Schlesinger, co-owner of NorthTown’s Street of Dreams and Nature’s Kingdom, said she can’t remember her last work-free vacation. She only gets out of town when she and her husband go to craft and gift shows in other cities.
She logs at least 30 hours per week at the store and spends countless more hours silk-screening the store’s signature T-shirts on her days and evenings off. When asked if working on a holiday weekend was a disappointment, she looked puzzled.
“What’s a holiday?” she laughed.
Schlesinger, like other shrewd store owners, knows there’s no rest for retailers: Only 172 shopping days are left until Christmas, which falls on a Monday, by the way.
Staff writers Rachel Konrad, Kristina Johnson, Carla K. Johnson, Tom Sowa and Eric Sorensen contributed to this report.