Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remember Blue Laws?

Written by Jonah Lisa

Back when most of us were children, blue laws were in effect throughout the country to preserve Sunday as a day of worship and rest.  
Isn’t that quaint?  

In some areas, all stores would be closed but other places had arcane rules that allowed for the purchase of certain items but not others.  I recall the famous example used when Blue Laws were being dismantled of being able to buy a hammer, but not nails.  Or was it the other way around?  And even after blue laws were repealed, you still couldn’t buy alcohol in many places on Sunday because, well you shouldn’t be drinking on a Sunday anyway!  You should be in church!
But us liberty-minded Americans, we bristled at the idea of commerce being dictated by religious beliefs.  We didn’t like being told what we should and shouldn’t be doing on a Sunday.  I’ll hammer and nail things if I want to, damnit!  And even as a kid, I completely agreed.  So down came the silly blue laws and the people cheered.  YAY!  
And then they went to Piggly Wiggly for a soda pop.  And some nails.  
As the years passed more and more stores were open on Sundays until there was really no difference between Sunday and any other day of the week.  As an adult I got used to the idea that I could buy and do pretty much whatever I wanted to on any day of the week.   Ah, the freedom!  I never thought much about those old blue laws again.  They were just silly rules that got in our way.  
Flash forward 30 or so years later when I moved from New York (the city that never sleeps) to a small, rural, mountain town in far eastern Idaho.  And low and behold, all the stores were closed on Sundays.  
Grocery store?  CLOSED.  Drug store?  CLOSED.  Liquor Store?  DEFINITELY CLOSED.  The only things open on a Sunday were church and the ski hill.  
You gotta have priorities.  
At first, I was shocked.  I’d lived in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.  I didn’t know this went on anywhere except for Israel, where everything is closed on Saturday, and Muslim countries during Ramadan!  I understood the reason.  Half of the population of my new home belong to the LDS church and no business run by an LDS member wanted to ask people to come in and work on a Sunday.  That’s a day to be with family, and yes, to go to church.  
But for some reason--maybe because I’d just moved from the hustle and bustle of The Big City, or maybe because I’d matured, or maybe because I was broke--I really didn’t mind.  And I started noticing something interesting.  Not many of the tree-hugging, progressive “move-in’s” that you’d expect to balk at a religion-based mandate seemed to mind either.  Everyone was A-OK with it. 
Sure, it took some getting used to.  You have to plan ahead a little.  But for very different reasons the people of this valley all seem to agree.  There’s nothing wrong with having one measly day of the week when you aren’t being tempted to consume.  Even more so this time of year!
It slows down the pace of life.  It alleviates the expectation of getting just as much done on Sunday as any other day.  It removes lots of self imposed expectations.  It means business owners and retail workers can get out and enjoy the day, too.  And sure, go to church if they want to, or head up to the ski hill, or take a hike, or just stay home and maybe even unplug.  Whether for religious reasons or not, it IS wonderful to set aside a day for rest, relaxation, or renewal in whatever form that takes for you.
And hey, if you find that you really need an egg or a cup of sugar?  Well, that’s what neighbors are for.
We have another, even more a-typical, kind of blue law here in the mountains as well.  On any given day, after a heavy snowfall, you may walk up to a shop or restaurant and find the door locked tight and a sign swinging in the window that simply reads:  
Like the Sunday store closures, I’ve learned to embrace and appreciate Powder Days.  In my opinion, we’d be a happier, healthier society if we all took more of them.  

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