and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
July #4

Nothing like a good siesta
to heal soul, state and country
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, July 29, 2005

Once youíve lived in a country whose citizens take siestas, it is hard to justify working throughout the hottest hours of the summer day.

It makes much more sense to work in the cool of the morning and evening, and find a shady spot for a nap in the afternoon. Not only would we maximize our own energy, but fuel would be saved if the air conditioner was turned down while we were outside under a tree.

This savings of course assumes that we do not follow the Greek model that was in effect between 1969-71 when I lived outside Athens. Businesses shut down for several hours while owners and employees drove home for lunch and a nap; there were four "rush hours" instead of two, which probably explains why pollution was eating the statues on the Acropolis. Now, years and many more vehicles later, it would be a permanent rush hour as it would be in Boston, so I donít know if they do this anymore.

However, late evenings back then were delightful. After work people would eat a leisurely meal and, the men at least, would socialize at an outside table at a taverna til midnight. Many Americans, who worked all day, were sometimes annoyed by the late hours for dinner, but as a non-employed Navy wife I was able to "go native" and start taking naps, either in our cool little house or beside the Navy base pool. Life was very good in Greece.

I donít remember siestas when I was an exchange student in Mexico Ė classes were held in the afternoon, and I spent my free time memorizing vocabulary words so I could converse with Mexican boys. But when my partner Chip and I vacationed in a village in Baja California a few years ago, the afternoon nap was expected, and we brought the habit home. He likes to get up between 4-5 a.m. and work on the computer til afternoon, then return refreshed in the evening.

Itís harder for me because I must interact with other people who are working 9-5. But with the Legislature having left for a six-week siesta, I am moving into summer mode myself. I work in the cooler hours of the morning and evening, and retire to the hammock when the sun is high above the cooling maple tree, taking my phone with me in case thereís a business call.

Now that legislators who are hostile to the initiative petition process have, after negative feedback from all sections of the political arena, backed off on their bill to kill it, I wonder if someone could file a petition to require summer siestas here in Massachusetts.

Would voters sign it? Probably not. The world seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with all of us "on" all the time, reachable by our cellphones, probably watched by satellites just in case we try to tell anyone we were deep in a cave and couldnít get a signal. Many of us complain about this constant availability, but of course it couldn't happen without our co-operation. Can we at least hope for more freedom in the future to slow down and be aware of our lives as they go by?

After thirty years of commuting into Boston, being indoors during all the summer daylight hours, commuting back at dusk, I now work at home where I can step outside during the summer days and visit my flowers. This has nothing to do with aging and retirement, since Iím a long ways from the latter; my new freedom is due to my phones and computer which allow me to telecommute,

Maybe all we will need eventually is an initiative petition requiring that computers and phones be turned off from noon to 2 p.m., so we can each go somewhere quiet for an American siesta.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.