TOLL OF THE MOUNTAINS

A 48-year-old West German accountant got a nasty shock when he returned this year from his mountain-climbing vacation. The boss claimed that his subordinate was so tired after his outdoor exertions that he was unable to concentrate on his work, and the employee was ordered to give back his holiday pay. He appealed. The ministry of labor not only upheld the penalty but warned workers who go back to work tired from their holiday that they might even have to forgo another week’s pay. A ministry spokesman specifically cautioned that anyone who “acted the strong man” to impress others during his vacation and injured himself in so doing would also be in trouble. The official succinctly declared: “The holiday exists so that workers and employes can draw new strength for the job.”

I recommend this eminently sensible ruling to the religious denomination that has set up a committee to inquire into the alarming incidence of coronaries among its pastors. I hope the committee will call for evidence from the wives of those clergy who double as college teachers, and those seminary professors who take on summer pastorates and write books in their spare time. It’s not so much that many return tired from vacation, but that they don’t understand what a vacation means. The many wives who go holidaying with their husbands’ work can perhaps echo Cowper’s descent into doggerel:

John Gilpin’s spouse said to her dear

Though wedded we have been

These twice ten tedious years, yet we

No holiday have seen.

It might give a new masculine dimension to that old sermon on Martha and Mary.

I’m talking just as much to myself here, for this year on vacation I took with me a particularly demanding work project. I fulfilled the minimum obligation ...

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