Articles

HOW TO MISS THE MOBS

How would you like to always find a parking space when you want it, get an empty table in a restaurant and quick service in half-empty shops, enjoy first-class holidays at third-rate prices? It’s all yours if you’ll take this advice for easier living

JAMES DUGAN February 15 1952
Articles

HOW TO MISS THE MOBS

How would you like to always find a parking space when you want it, get an empty table in a restaurant and quick service in half-empty shops, enjoy first-class holidays at third-rate prices? It’s all yours if you’ll take this advice for easier living

JAMES DUGAN February 15 1952

HOW TO MISS THE MOBS

How would you like to always find a parking space when you want it, get an empty table in a restaurant and quick service in half-empty shops, enjoy first-class holidays at third-rate prices? It’s all yours if you’ll take this advice for easier living

JAMES DUGAN

THERE IS at least one wise man in your town who has figured out how to avoid most of the hectic jam of modern life. He rides to work on a half-filled bus, shops in uncrowded stores, lunches in a quiet leisurely café, and when he drives the family downtown there is never a traffic jam and always a parking space. When he takes the wife and kids for a car ride the roads are almost exclusively his. Our fortunate man holidays on deserted beaches, travels at reduced fares in sparsely populated trains, planes and ocean liners. He rents cottages and hotel rooms at two thirds off and enjoys glittering resorts without bruising his elbows. In fact this exceptional character has almost got a way figured out to get into the family bathroom when he wants to.

Mr. Lucky Schmoe is not one of the idle rich but he is a man who doesn’t have to keep traditonal office hours in his job and is free to join the increasing number of people who live off-schedule. He has privately adopted a planning engineer’s dream of staggered hours. In simple words, Mr. Sclmoe manages to be there when other people ain't. And he has a big wide latitude to work in. He has discovered that the rest of us use only the middle third of the day for work, and that we pile on top of each other in the rush hours that bracket the work day. He has noticed our peculiar habit of sitting down on each other’s laps for lunch. He has detected our singular mania for making mass assaults on parking spaces and traffic lights a few hours a day and leaving them clear the rest of r,he time. He found out that we grump along bumper-to-bumper on the way to the country two days a week and give him the road the rest of the week.

Mr. Schmoe specializes in being unfashionable and it gives him pleasure and profit. In the summer his pigeon breast expands in Florida, where he hires a beach cabana and a two-room suite at the Costello Plaza for eight dollars a day. Old Lucky also discovers that he is the pampered darling of the resort everybody loves him and speaks civilly to him, Mrs. Lucky and young Schmoe junior. Mr. Schmoe is a strictly off-beat, out-of-season, too-early-and-too-late type guy. When he makes the big effort to see Europe before his boy grows up, travel agents salaam before him and steamship moguls all but mold statues of Mr. Schmoe because lie fills up their boats out of season. In their gratitude they insist on giving him bargain-basement prices and Waldorf Tower service.

Is Mr. Schmoe happier than the rest of the heap? I’ll say he is! He has made one of the few personal adjustments we Schmoes can make in the jangling crush of contemporary life. Mr. Schmoe, furthermore, is not an antisocial character. He tells everybody he could benefit by spreading his activities into the unused hours, days, weeks, and months.

The world is getting more crowded year by year and we are acquiring more gadgets to stumble over. We are doing more things and going more places with more impedimenta.

Old Schmoe will not be caught outside of the neighborhood on national holidays. On Dominion Day Schmoe sits in a cool dark quiet room at home with a soothing beer while millions of fenders and bumpers grind on the hot high roads. On Labor Day Old Schmoe never wins the fat man’s race at the Elk picnic or participates in a drowning tragedy when a motor-boat wash upsets his canoe Schmoe isn’t at the picnic and he canoes on an obscure Thursday when the motorboat boys are safely at work in the bank. On New Year’s Eve Schmoe has never been discovered with compound fractures in the wreckage of his car: he is at home toasting a new off-schedule year with the next-door neighbors.

Lucky Schmoe is the darling of the planning engineers. At the Regional Planning Association in New York, for instance, there is a big library of Schmoeism, which spells out how smart we could get if we adopted staggered hours. The idea is not utopian theory. Many cities found the idea sound and good during the last war when expanding industry put a heavy strain on transportation. In

Toronto, for instance, many big offices started half an hour earlier at 8.30 in the morning and closed at 4.30. The big stores like Eaton’s and Simpson’s opened at 9.30 and closed at 5.30.

Some offices have kept this wartime schedule, or off-schedule, and the result has been that the traffic load at both ends of the day has been spread over a ninety-minute period instead of being piled on a single heavy half hour.

The first city in the world to have staggered time was Washington, D.C., in 1918. It adopted staggered hours, not to lessen traffic problems, but to cut down on public congestion, which was

spreading the influenza epidemic. Engineers claim that from the public health point of view alone staggered time is worth while for a city. Medical researchers could not invent a better way to spread infection than packed public conveyances in the winter season when resistance to disease is low.

In 1948 the Montreal City Planning Commission put downtown traffic in the test tube and discovered that one quarter of the time vehicles spent in the area was at a complete stop in jams. Montreal merchants estimated their annual loss from traffic immobility reached six million dollars. Planning engineers have Continued on next page

Continued on next page

warned city after city of the heavy losses in business when people can’t find a parking space and so get trapped in traffic blocks.

Sometimes a city gets staggered hours by accident when part of the business firms refuse to change to daylight saving time. The town opens and closes on two shifts and people suddenly wonder why it isn’t so crowded on the way to and from work. Human adaptability is also at work. Most big-city work patterns have factory workers reporting earlier than office and retail employees and the executives following later. Overcrowding of schools, which forces two or three shifts on the classroom, also thins the use of transportation. Some progress has been made in the familiar campaign to get women shoppers to ride between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But, like the ancient plea to Do Your Christmas Shopping Early, we are not yet as smart as Mr. Schmoe in picking the best time to venture downtown.

'Throughout Nort h America the number of automobiles is increasing faster than the population. In 1915 there was one car for every sixty persons, in 1958 one car for eight persons; now there is a motor vehicle for every three and a half people. Mr. Schmoe is not bothered by this statistic because he keeps his car at home until the odds are better. He does not drive to the country on Sunday. He goes on 'Tuesday, when the roadside foliage is getting over its carbon monoxide hangover and his nicely spaced fellowdrivers are salesmen, route men and truck drivers who will not crack you up with some dumb Sunday-driver trick. Old Lucky admits that most people can’t take off on 'Tuesday. He happens to work in a hydro-electric plant which does not follow the whimsical work schedules of other businesses, but turns out power a hundred and sixty-eight hours a week. Foreman Schmoe put in for week-end work and takes Tuesday and Wednesday off. He wonders why other businesses do not stagger the work week.

Night’s as Good as Day

Raymond Loewy, the well-known industrial designer, blames our onschedule uniformity on the invention of the clock in the tenth century. “Man began to think in minutes and hours ... so he began the process of systematizing this time-material: so much for sleep, so much for work, so much for leisure . . . Efficiency gained and liberty lost a great deal,” says Loewy.

“Ever since prehistoric days, man has worked in daytime and slept at night; he did not work at night because he could not see ... A recurrent rest period was felt to be a necessity; he worked for six days and rested on the seventh, and the week was born. But now conditions are different. With excellent artificial lighting and air conditioning, work at night is just as easy as in daytime or easier. In fact many of the latest plants, stores and offices are already daylight-sealed and work is done under manufactured illumination.

“So it would seem that the present ‘daytime - for - work, nighttime - for -sleep’ cycle may not be the best basis for future living. And it may be that the present ‘week’ has ceased to be the right answer. One can see a possibility of daytime becoming leisure time (more outdoor living) and night being assigned to both work and sleep. For instance:

Work: Midnight to 8 a.m.

Leisure: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sleep: 4 p.m. to midnight.

“As far as the week is concerned, it becomes this:

Work: 9 days Rest: 5 days.”

Dividing the day into three arbitrary eight-hour periods has never held in the hot countries where social and working life stops completely for a threeor four-hour lunch and siesta when the sun is highest. In the Latin and Balkan countries businesses close from noon to 4 p.m. and reopen into the evening. Dinner is taken at 10 or 11 p.m. and café life is at its peak at midnight, sometimes later, in the Latin world. Yet these same nightlifers are early risers because they sleep twice a day. Most cities in the interior of North America suffer from tropical heat in summer. (Washington and Ottawa in summer are classed as semitropical cities by the European diplomatic corps.) We refuse, however, to acknowledge the fact and swelter away while our backward Latin cousins are sensibly asleep.

Why Does Summer End?

The timing of Labor Day -the first Monday after the first Sunday of September is indefensible. The holiday was started by the Knights of Labor, a forerunner of the CIO, in 1882. 'There were then no automobiles, no paid vacations, and holiday travel was confined to the wealthy few. Labor Day has become the symbolic end of summer, yet summer actually lasts two or three weeks more. We have our last shoeless fling at sun and water then we flee back to work and pretend it is autumn. We empty such resorts as Ingonish Beach, N.S., where the high temperature in September 1950 was 81 degrees, and Banff, where it reached 86°, and crowd back into Toronto (79°) and Montreal (78°). (The October 1950 highs were: Ingonish 81°,

Banff 64°, Toronto 76°, and Montreal 78 °.)

The principal victim besides the holidayer is the resort industry. Next to newsprint U. S. tourism is Canada’s biggest source of Yankee dollars. The resort industry asks, “Why do we let Labor Day cut off the fine end of summer?” R. G. Perry, traffic manager of the Provincial 'Transport Co., Montreal, thinks that postponing Labor Day

to the third Monday of September would add twenty percent to tourist business. George A. Martin, of Toronto, a leader in Muskoka and allCanadian tourist development, has long evangelized for postponing Labor Day.

Tourist boards, unions, colleges and government bureaus have approved postponing Labor Day but no united drive has come along to put it over. Important holidays have been changed before. President Roosevelt acceded to merchants’ pleas to move the U. S. Nov. 25 'Thanksgiving holiday a week farther away from Christmas. 'The hidebound element howled piteously and some areas stuck to the traditional date but most people thought F. D. R. made a sensible move. 'The date of the King’s birthday has been tampered with. We disregard the actual date, Dec. 14, and give the toast, “Gentlemen, the King” in June.

Canada’s hotel rates dip less than Florida’s in the uncrowded beginning and end of season, hut there are savings for the holidayer nonetheless. In September the Admiral Beatty in Saint John, N.B., charges seven dollars for a double room with bath, while the Cascade Hotel in Banff and the Athabasca Hotel in Jasper N itional Park come down to five dollars for doubles. Hunting and fishing are at their best in the national parks in the ninth month and those midsummer tormentors, the black fly and mosquito, are gone.

Resorts and holiday-travel utilities have been pushing for years to thin out vacationing over the full year. The California All-Year Club, specializing in this job, has made fine progress, as has the state of Florida. One hundred million dollars have been spent in the last quarter-century to induce you to go to Florida out-of-season. Florida has baited its trap with the finest of inducements over-all savings of about thirty percent for off-season vacations.

In 1950 the summer tourist business in Florida increased one hundred percent over the previous year due to a three-million-dollar propaganda drive around the slogan Florida in Summer Has Everything. There were concerted campaigns by hotels, airlines and rail-

roads, and whopping reductions in the usual winter rates. Florida’s three millions were well spent: the increase in summer tourist spending was fifty million dollars.

The posh Sovereign Hotel in Miami Beach which takes twenty-five dollars a day for a couple in winter, gives the same room for six dollars from May through August. Tourist camps come down from eighteen dollars to six dollars.

Trans-Canada Airlines has several money-saving inducements to travel out of season and on the lightly traveled period of Monday through Wednesday. For instance, a Montreal family of two adults and two children up to twenty-one can fly TCA to New York for $114 instead of the full fare total of $164. The trip must be made after October and on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and is made possible by the Family Fare Plan, which permits a father who pays the full fare to take his family at half fares. Seven months of the year TCA’s North Atlantic service will whiz you to EJurope and return for one-and-a-third fare, to induce you to fill up the off-season flights.

They’ve Got to Fly Anyway

The airline and the hotels are not giving anything away. 'The planes have to fly anyway to maintain their government-licensed schedules, and the hotels find it much cheaper to retain the staff the year-round and keep the hotel open for the lucky few rather than close up and reopen for the fashionable winter visitors. (An extreme example is the luxurious Hershey Hotel in Pennsylvania, a busy summer spot, which stays open throughout the winter, sometimes with as many as fifty employees for each guest.)

Many Canadians have discovered the Florida and Caribbean off-season bargains. Two-week all-expense holidays by air from eastern or prairie Canada to Florida, Nassau and Mexico City, can be handled well within a modest holiday budget.

European resorts follow the farcical herd - fashions of American holiday spots. August is the ritual month in Deauville, after which the haut monde rushes back to Paris like contrary lemmings. Monsieur Bonne Chance Schmeau then turns up in small numbers to own the place. The classic continental holiday month of August is an ordeal. England seems to close up in August to cram the Channel boats so that the plages can be crammed in France and Belgium. This leaves eleven dandy months for the wise man to use the resorts.

The trans-Atlantic steamship line is the oldest victim of our herd holiday habits. We go to Europe and return in self-regimenteil hordes from June to early September, leaving the big ships half-empty westbound in early summer, half-full eastbound in late summer, and poorly utilized the rest of the year. The steamer people cut fares out-ofseason as much as twenty percent to reform our migratory habits, and the international airlines do the same. True, European travel is spreading throughout the year and the season is lengthening, but not because we chose to travel wisely and less expensively. It is because the war-depleted fleets simply cannot handle us all at once, and we are forced to go earlier or wait till later for bookings.

Experienced world travelers, like our friend Schmoe, usually travel out of season. It’s the way to do it—if you can. There’s only one thing about it that sometimes bothers Schmoe at nights: what if everyone began to live off-schedule?