While most people were enjoying a holiday with their family, Larie Fitzgerald was just starting his workday. Last weekend marked the final days of spring break for local students and an Easter holiday that took many out of town to visit family. But while many shops closed, Fitzgerald and others across the county were doing business as usual. It?s not an easy schedule, Fitzgerald said.
An employee at the Safeway on Wilson Boulevard near the intersection with George Mason Drive, Fitzgerald worked the overnight shift on Easter, as he does every Friday and Saturday. ?It?s Easter! Why does the store need to be open at 12 o?clock in the morning?? he wondered, as the clocks approached midnight Sunday.
Safeway closes at midnight, but employees stay until 6:30 a.m. to restock shelves and take care of other tasks. ?It?s not bad in a way, because you?re in here working and nobody is in your way.?
ACROSS TOWN at Gua-rapo restaurant in Courthouse, Alex Hall also said working on the holiday weekend wasn?t bad. ?To be honest, I don?t even notice it any more,? he said. ?It?s just like another night of work.?
Working on holidays may not be ideal, but it?s far from the hardest schedule. ?It?s toughest to work if it?s a beautiful day, you want to be outside or there?s something special going on,? he said.
Managers tend to keep restaurants and bars open on holidays in part to cater to patrons who don?t have special plans, said Daniel Hatem, manager of Gua-rapo. ?There?s always those situations where you can?t be with family [on a holiday], so the next best thing is to go out with your friends,? he said. ?So it?s nice to be open.?
That kind of schedule can put a strain on the people who keep businesses running. But Hatem didn?t mind working this Easter. ?I guess there would have been a part in my life when I would have, but at this point I know what?s expected of me,? said Hatem. ?Consistency is how we run things here, so we have to be open every night.?
WITH MANY CULTURES, nationalities and religious beliefs represented in Arlington, it?s even more important to stay open on holidays, Hatem said. With live Latin music every night of the week, Gua-rapo attracts a diverse clientele, many of whom don?t celebrate Easter.
Kenzi Boateng is a native of Nigeria, who works as a security officer at Courthouse Plaza. Being far from home, Boateng wasn?t spending the holiday weekend with family. Instead he, too, was hard at work. ?I have to work today to make my money,? he said.
When employees do want to celebrate religious holidays with families, work schedules can be a big problem. ?I don?t hardly go to church, because I don?t have time,? said Fitzgerald.
He and his wife both work at the same store, but they seldom spend time together off the job. Their wedding anniversary falls on a Tuesday this year, one of the busiest nights of the week at the store. Fitzgerald says he expects his request for a night off to celebrate his anniversary will be denied.
Ultimately it?s a matter of economic disadvantage, Fitzgerald said. ?If you?re the middle class, if you?re poor, you don?t have a life.?
Hall had a different perspective on working holiday shifts. ?Every day or night could be an adventure,? he said. ?You never know who?s going to walk into your bar,? especially on holidays.
Sean Joy also looked at a holiday work schedule as an adventure. It was easier for Joy to get into the spirit of the holiday, since he dressed as the Easter Bunny to help promote the annual Easter brunch at Whitlow?s on Wilson.
CROWDS THIS SUNDAY peaked at brunch for some restaurants, and by evening Gua-rapo?s crowd was thin, even for their usual slowest night of the week. ?The majority of people are spending [Easter] with their families,? said Hall.
Hatem said working a late shift didn?t prohibit him from spending time with his family in the District this year. ?I still had time to do my Easter lunch,? he said.
Fitzgerald didn?t have that luxury. In fact, since Safeway closes just one day a year, Christmas, he almost never has free time on a holiday. Even so, he made sure to celebrate Easter in his own way. ?Religion to me is just walking outside and giving praise and thanks to everybody that?s living,? he said.
Still, he hopes some day employers will care more about their employees and less about dollars and cents. ?People should wake up and realize life is life, and work is going to be here,? he said. ?If Christmas is the only day they can afford to lose money, then these big corporations, these rich folks, they?ve got problems.?