I’m a big lover of Portland’s weekly Coffee Outside meetup, where anywhere from a handful to three dozen cyclists come together at a different park each Saturday morning to brew coffee and hang out. The organized Coffee Outside here started sometime at the very tail end of Obama’s presidency (the first one I attended was on October 21st, 2016) though my friend Chris Chen was doing the same thing as far back as 2013. It’s a phenomenon that happens in other cities around the country/world as well.
Before the pandemic Coffee Outside happened on Fridays from 7-9 AM. This seemed to be a common theme, as many Coffee Outsides happen on a workday morn. As such, it was hard for me to attend, at least in my hostel years, because I had to be to work by 8 AM. The spot had to be on or near my route into work, and usually I’d end up getting to work late. This probably wasn’t a problem for folks who started work at 9, but the timing was a serious crimp in my enjoyment.
But then pandemic put a pause on the event for a year or so. Then the organizers decided to bring it back and shift it to Saturdays at 9-11 AM as “an experiment”, with a possible switch back to Fridays if/when people started to commute to work again. But that hasn’t happened. Doing it on Saturdays at a civilized hour is much more fun. And it’s encouraged folks to do rides right after the coffee. This is what happened with the back-to-back Coffee Outsides I attended on March 11 and March 18th. Because I have Saturdays free, I could do this.
This got me thinking about the importance of Saturdays in my life. To a lot of folks Saturdays are important by default, since they’re the first day of the weekend. But you can only really do something (or nothing) with a Saturday if you have either a standard Monday through Friday work week or a flexible schedule. If you’ve always had Saturdays off (with maybe the exception of that part-time job you worked when you were in school), you don’t realize what a commodity Saturdays can be. But if you’ve had to work a lot of Saturdays, you know.
For much of my working life, working Saturdays was a given. In my late teens through mid-twenties I worked retail, where being available for one of the busiest shopping days was a requirement. It didn’t mean that much to me then, since a lot of my friends and acquaintances also worked weekends–we’d make our own fun on our days off, and we were also young enough to have the energy to go do stuff on a Saturday after working a full shift.
From about 1998 to 2006 I had various different jobs, and sporadic Saturday shifts happened. Then I got the job at the hostel, a place open every day of the year (including Christmas.) I inevitably ended up working weekends all of the time. Now I was in my early 30s and held this job practically into my mid 40s. Sure, there are nice things about having your “weekend” in the middle of the week, especially during the summer–if you want to go somewhere, it’s going to be less crowded. But most of my friends had standard 9-to-5s, and would end up doing cool things on the weekend, especially Saturday. Sure, if I knew about something far enough in advance I could get a weekend day off, but that was a lot of work, and I could only request so many weekend days off before getting the side eye from my manager.
During the last year working there, I got the compromise solution of getting Sundays and Mondays off, so I’d have at least one weekend day free. But I quickly realized that was not enough, most of the good things were still happening on Saturday, especially if anyone was doing an overnight bike adventure. Sure, I could hustle after my shift ended on Saturday (usually 3 PM) to get to the destination, but I’d still have to coordinate that with my boss because I was manager on-call that day. I needed out. So I transitioned to part time for a few months, then quit at the end of 2018 (though I picked up a shift or two until the hostel unceremoniously shuttered in March 2020 due to pandemic.)
Of course, I got my Saturdays back but I didn’t end up doing as much with them as I thought for a bit. And the first year of pandemic basically erased the distinction between days of the week for many people. But now that pandemic has subsided, I’m glad that I have Saturdays off. Even if I don’t do anything special, it’s nice to have that luxury of Saturdays being special in itself. It’s nice to know that I’ll generally have that availability to do something on this day without having to request a day off months in advance. Sure, with my current event-planning work I may have to work a Saturday every once in a while, but it’s every once in a while.
Over the past year or two I’ve come across some cool job openings at places I like. I think of how fun this job might be, and think I would be qualified to get the job. Then I read the fine print, and they mention that working Saturdays if not the whole weekend is a requirement. And I move on. After so many years of having to work every Saturday, let me be selfish about having this day free, even if I do nothing with it.
Counterpoint: I’ve never worked a Mon-Fri job and I love the option of being able to work weekends from home just so I can have days off the week to go places where there aren’t crowds because, well, they are working.
I think flexible schedules are truly the best!