MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Coming up, if you're stuck in a major airport this holiday, we'll help you find the best place to eat.
But first, if you're stuck at work, I feel your pain. Millions of people, including the staff here at DAY TO DAY, dragged themselves out of bed and punched the time clock early this morning.
Well, we decided to check in with some other poor souls who had to go to work today and one of them is Anna Johnson. She's a nurse at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan.
Ms. ANNA JOHNSON (Nurse): Hi. How are you today?
BRAND: Well, pretty good, considering. How long is your shift?
Ms. JOHNSON: I'm on a twelve-and-a-half-hour shift today.
BRAND: Twelve and a half hours. Oh, that is brutal. How do you feel about working today for twelve and a half hours?
Ms. JOHNSON: You know, not too bad. I normally do three of them a week. My family kind of goes out without me. So...
BRAND: And do you have Thanksgiving on another day?
Ms. JOHNSON: My family typically celebrates the Sunday after because my mother is also a nurse. So - yeah, we just move it around to when people can be available to celebrate.
BRAND: When you get off today, you're just going to go home and go to bed?
Ms. JOHNSON: Go home. Spend some time with the kids and go back to bed.
BRAND: What's the mood like there? Is it sort of festive?
Ms. JOHNSON: You know, usually we have some snacks and usually people are in pretty good spirits on the holidays.
BRAND: Did you volunteered for this shift?
Ms. JOHNSON: Usually you are required to work a certain number of holidays and so you can pick which one you work. So most of us are here by choice. This is the holiday we wanted to work.
BRAND: Do you get any financial incentives for working today?
Ms. JOHNSON: Being a full-time employee, I would get eight hours of pay whether I worked or not, and then I get time and a half for the days I'm here. So yeah, it definitely pays to work the holidays.
BRAND: Yeah. So that's make it a little more bearable, right?
Ms. JOHNSON: Oh, definitely.
BRAND: Okay, well, I don't know if I can say have fun today, but have a great day.
Ms. JOHNSON: Yeah. Thank you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: Okay. Bye, Anna.
Overtime, double pay. Not everyone is as lucky. Take people who work in the restaurant business, where waiters rely on tips. Sylvia's is one of the places to go for soul food in Harlem. Actually, it's just one of the places to go, period, in New York City.
And Weldon Egerton(ph) is busy waiting tables there.
Mr. WELDON EGERTON (Waiter): Hi. How are you?
BRAND: Fine. Thank you. How are you?
Mr. EGERTON: I'm just good, just good. Just waiting to get my day started here.
BRAND: And how crowded do you think the restaurant will be today?
Mr. EGERTON: Well, just in my room only, I have 31 reservations.
BRAND: So that's 31 families.
Mr. EGERTON: Right.
BRAND: That's a lot.
Mr. EGERTON: Right.
BRAND: And so the restaurant is packed. How much food does that mean?
Mr. EGERTON: Probably well over - well over a hundred turkeys.
BRAND: A hundred turkeys.
Mr. EGERTON: Right.
BRAND: Are they already cooked?
Mr. EGERTON: Yes, they are. Everything was prepped last night.
BRAND: So people were working through the night cooking?
Mr. EGERTON: Around the clock.
BRAND: And what else are you serving?
Mr. EGERTON: We're serving macaroni and cheese, potato salad, collard greens, ham, cranberry sauce, yams. And for dessert we're having sweet potato pie.
BRAND: Mmm. Can I come?
Mr. EGERTON: Yes.
BRAND: Sounds real good.
Mr. EGERTON: You can be my guest.
BRAND: Just a little bit of a commute. Are you going to have any of that?
Mr. EGERTON: Yes, I will. Before my shift starts, I'll sit down and actually have dinner.
BRAND: So you're having Thanksgiving dinner before you start working?
Mr. EGERTON: Right.
BRAND: And when do you expect to leave tonight?
Mr. EGERTON: Anytime between 9:30 and 10:00 o'clock.
BRAND: Wow. So that is a long day for you.
Mr. EGERTON: Yes, it is.
BRAND: And do you get tipped really well on Thanksgiving? Do people take pity on you?
Mr. EGERTON: Well, with the family styles gratuity is included with the meal, but nine times out of ten you're going to get a little something extra on top of that.
BRAND: So do you like working Thanksgiving?
Mr. EGERTON: Yes, I do. It's very busy. I'm single, you know, so most of my family is away. So it's a good thing for me. And I'm a people person.
BRAND: Well, Weldon Egerton, thanks for speaking with us. I'll let you get back to it.
Mr. EGERTON: Okay.
BRAND: Okay. Happy Thanksgiving.
Mr. EGERTON: Same to you.
(Soundbite of dogs barking)
BRAND: Restaurants feed the people and kennels feed the dogs dropped off by traveling owners. At Greensborough Pet Spa in Greensborough, North Carolina, it's one of the busiest days of the year. Kate Holderness(ph) is handling all that doggy chaos.
Ms. KATE HOLDERNESS (Greensborough Pet Spa): Hello. Happy Thanksgiving.
BRAND: You too. Well, how many pets do you have there?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: We've got about 70 animals right now. We've got five cats, so about 65 dogs.
BRAND: And that's them there in the background saying hello?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: Yup. That's a bunch of poodles and a corgi. We've got a quite a crowd, a diverse group this weekend.
BRAND: So what is it like handling all these dogs today?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: I would call it controlled bedlam.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. HOLDERNESS: It's always crazy on holidays. Thanksgiving is our second busiest boarding holiday of the year, next to Fourth of July. So we're always pretty busy. Yesterday we had about 50 dogs check in, and we get here at 7:30 in the morning and start running.
BRAND: Literally, right?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: Everybody is awake and wants to go out and wants to get breakfast. So it starts early and it just goes all day.
BRAND: So how long will you be working today?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: Today, let's see. I'll probably get done around 1:00 o'clock and have a little bit of a break and be back in the afternoon from - probably about 4:00 to 6:00-ish.
BRAND: And do you get to have Thanksgiving? Or do you have it another day?
Ms. HOLDERNESS: Well, I always have some dinner with my mom. She got some kebabs from our local organic food store. So I think we're going to have a pretty decent dinner. It's going to be pretty quiet though, no big turkey, no big production. Usually by the time I'm out of here, I'm exhausted, and holidays, you know, we might do something next week.
BRAND: Okay, well, Kate Holderness, thanks for talking with us.
Ms. HOLDERNESS: Thanks a lot. And y'all have a great Thanksgiving.
BRAND: The owners of those dogs are all out of town. Perhaps some of them have gone to visit a national park.
Eric Leonard is a park ranger at Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. Welcome to the program.
Mr. ERIC LEONARD (Park Ranger): Happy Thanksgiving.
BRAND: Happy Thanksgiving to you. Well, do you have visitors already there?
Mr. LEONARD: Yes. We have been open for about an hour and a half, and I have written permits for about 60 people - mostly in groups who are going out, you know, either up into the mountains or hiking out into our desert.
Big Bend is a - an isolated, lesser known large national park and our - we don't get a lot of visitors. But when we do, they come in droves, you know, at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, and then in the spring when the cactus are blooming.
BRAND: So what kind of people come to your isolated neck of the woods on Thanksgiving?
Mr. LEONARD: Texans. While Big Bend is a national treasure, and it's a Texas treasure. Many of our visitors over Thanksgiving are Texans who have been coming here for Thanksgiving for decades.
BRAND: And what about you? When you're finished with your shift, do you go home and have a meal?
Mr. LEONARD: Well, we're an isolated park. The nearest town with basic services is 100 miles away. And so there's a small year-round community that lives inside the park and we - I will be going this evening to a community dinner that will be made up mostly of co-workers.
BRAND: Well, Eric Leonard, Happy Thanksgiving to you.
Mr. LEONARD: Thank you. A Happy Thanksgiving to you.
BRAND: That was Eric Leonard, park ranger in Southwest Texas.
We also heard from Kate Holderness, who's taking care of 70 pets in Greensborough, North Carolina, and Weldon Egerton, a waiter in New York City, and we started off with Anna Johnson, a nurse in Holland, Michigan.
If you are also working today, on the job or in the kitchen, Happy Thanksgiving.
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