Trinidadians woke last Monday morning exhausted by the mere contemplation of a full five-day work week without a single public holiday stretching ahead of them. The only reason some of our overworked professionals managed to last until today without taking off a sick day is because they probably spent their entire work week on the phone with friends, planning today’s start of yet another extra-long weekend, since most people will leave work early today and take Monday coming off, thereby stretching next Tuesday’s public holiday into almost a five-day weekend; by a particularly delicious Trini irony, next Tuesday’s holiday, which marks the sixth month of relaxation uninterrupted by work in Trinidad since the year began, is Labour Day. Many workers will also need to take next Wednesday off, to recover from Tuesday’s rallies, which are marked by sombre contemplation of the life of legendary trade unionist Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, in the morning and too much puncheon after lunch. But an extra day off is the very least the overburdened wage-sufferers of Trinidad should expect; they haven’t had to slave away at their jobs for a whole five days in a week like this for months. Last week’s Corpus Christi holiday, falling as it did last Thursday, effectively turned last weekend into a four-day one, since anyone who could naturally took last Friday off. And Trinidadians only managed to survive the work week before that, beginning Monday, May 28, because it was split in two, thank God, by the public holiday of Indian Arrival Day, which fell on the Wednesday, May 30—effectively turning both the weekend before it, the last weekend of May, and the weekend after it, the first in June, into two five-day weekends, since anyone who could, did whatever it took to take off either the Monday and Tuesday before or the Thursday and Friday after.
But a five-day weekend was the absolute minimum rest period Trinidadian working stiffs needed in May, since they had to somehow struggle through the entire preceding month, April, with hardly a decent rest: 30 days of April managed to cough up only one measly four-day weekend! The great English-American poet, TS Eliot, could have been granted honorary Trini citizenship for his perspicacity in declaring that “April is the cruelest month” (though, had he been writing in Port-of-Spain and not London, he surely would have titled his epic poem “The Waste Down Land”). But at least there was a four-day weekend in April; in all of March, 31 firetrucking days, there was only one public holiday, Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day. It would have to be the black people’s God who would be treated so badly and given only one day off for his worshippers’ benefit when, the very next month, the white people’s Christian God could get both a Friday and a Monday off, and the year’s only guaranteed four-day weekend (even if Trinidadians have perfected the art of stretching holidays that fall in the work week into even longer weekends, as with Indian Arrival Day). By Trinidadian standards, March is a contender for the most productive month of the year. Certainly that honour doesn’t belong to February which, even if it doesn’t have any official public holidays, is almost always Carnival month, which gives us Carnival Monday and Tuesday and the Ash Wednesday Cool Down at Maracas as full days off and the rest of the month as de facto days off. Who going to work Monday after Panorama or all-inclusive fete Sunday? And you can dismiss most Januarys as being totally worthless, work-wise, even if we only officially get New Year’s Day off. “January” is only a shorter way of saying “Christmas over, Carnival start,” and all office attention is focused on who-bringing-what to the cooler fete.
Feel sorry for Trinis next month, though: after six months of relaxation in 2012, they must get through all of July without a single public holiday. Luckily, many take their annual vacations as school ends, otherwise it would be an impossible haul until August, when there are barely two official holidays, Emancipation Day (which falls on August 1 and is really a July holiday weekend, if you think about it), and Independence Day, August 31, quito-quite at the end of the month, so you have the entire month of August in-between the first and last weekends without any sort of holiday at all, except trips to Tobago and weekends at other people’s beach houses and so on. (You’ve got to leave town before midday on the Friday to make it worthwhile, of course.) And, once the new school term starts, well, forget about holidays, because there is barely one and almost at the end of September (the 24th, Republic Day—another nice little ironical celebration, in which the principal responsibility of citizenship is to get drunk fast-fast-fast); and Republic Day has often been known to fall on a Saturday and spoil the fete.
Sometimes, what with the vagaries of Mother Nature, there might not even be a public holiday at all in October—though we can usually count on Divali; and, if Divali disappoints in October, that’s good for the otherwise holiday-less November. With a bit of luck, and some reliance on Trini Muslims being more Trini than Muslim, the moon can usually be spotted in such a way as to turn the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday for Allah into a long weekend but, if it should ever happen that neither floating holiday of Eid or Divali lands in November, you can expect Thanksgiving to catch on immediately in Trinidad. God knows we need something to carry us through our one holiday-less month in the year, November, to Christmas, our favour- ite time of year, when even actually being at work means, not reports and meetings and spread- sheets, but ponche de creme and Christmas party and spreading out massive. Man, it could wear you out, thinking about all this stuff. Trinis really, really deserve their holidays, yes.