Labor Day Exhaustion

Bye Bye Benny


Labor Day at the beach is radically different from Labor Day elsewhere for lots of reasons. The first being the pressure comes off in the service industry. And this year, they needed it.

When I was a kid (and I’m sure they still do something like it on the Jersey Shore) some towns would hold what could be called “Farewell Benny” parties. “Benny” is one of my favorite pejoratives. It stands for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York, the places day-trippers and summer people tended to come from.

Here on the Delmarva Penninsula they call them Tourons, which exudes the exquisite lack of creativity we embrace in the region. It doesn’t just lack tact but it is also reeks of morning radio fart humor.

So, no. I’m not a fan.

I proffered my own alternative, Pawsome, which stands for “Pennsylvania, somewhere” as a more elegant replacement. It hasn’t really caught on.

Todd DeHart offered a particular insight this week about the tenor of Labor Day and indeed Summer 2021. As a person who works in a tourism-adjacent industry, Todd hangs out with a lot of food service people.

In a typical year, Labor Day is kind of a launching pad with people excited for the coming weeks of fair weather, easily accessible beaches, and tourists mostly crowding the weekends. This year, he said, Labor Day marked more relief than excitement.

We have a working idea on the show that some people misunderstand what vacation is for. They come to the beach with this notion that they have to have fun and it doesn’t matter who they have to kill to do it. It’s as if they have a weird checklist left over from when they came here in the eighth grade and they’re trying to recreate that experience.

Sometimes for generations.

According to Todd (I went nowhere near the beach this summer), it was amplified this year. Added to the checklist people were those suffering from pandemic mania, desperate to blow off steam they felt they’d accumulated watching Netflix for a year. People were meaner and cheaper and generally committed to taking the fun out of summer to prove they had a good time.

A lot of the folks who make their livings from tourism have an Apollo Creed demeanor. Sure they won the fight, but they don’t wanna celebrate or ever do it again. Maybe it has to do with the expectation that this would be a celebratory summer rather than a desperate, grasping validation that the months spent inside were worth it.