My Thanksgiving: Working Retail While Everyone Else Eats Turkey

"It's not fair to feel trapped at work, when everyone else is feeling this complete sense of love and togetherness with the rest of the world."

Originally Published: 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s most popularly recognized as an occasion to eat too much, watch television, fight with your in-laws, and occasionally give thanks, but the reality is much more diverse. In “My Thanksgiving,” we’re talking to a handful of Americans across the country — and world — to get a broader sense of the holiday. For some of our interviewees, they have no traditions at all. But the day — steeped in American mythos, an origin story that comes with great complications — is at least passively observed by even the most agnostic of patriots. In this installment, Josh*, an Apple Store employee, looks back on family Thanksgivings past.

Thanksgiving may not be the most fun holiday, but to be honest, it’s one of my most cherished. I have some great, great memories as a kid from Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget when my dad was married to his ex-wife, her entire family came over with all of the cousins. One of my really blonde ditzy cousins and I were watching the Thanksgiving parade, and she goes, “Mom, is today Thanksgiving?” Every year, we always text each other, “Hey, is today Thanksgiving?”

This year I’ll be working at the Apple store. I couldn’t get my shift covered. It just feels stupid to be at work. Christmas Eve is the opposite — that’s the holiday where the store is popping. Thanksgiving is an empty day. People don’t recognize other holidays, but I feel like Thanksgiving is pretty much a holiday everybody in this country accepts as the time to be with friends and family. It’s just kind of weird, because it’s like, who is coming in here right now? And if you are coming in here right now, you couldn’t fucking handle this tomorrow or yesterday? I remember last year [there was] just so much standing around.

The employees try to make the best of it together. The one nice thing about Apple is that on holidays or busy days, they’ll cater for us. That’s nice of them. Everybody’s very close and it’s a very happy work environment. When you get into the break room on your lunch break and there’s a bunch of people sitting there eating some nice, catered food, it’s not the worst thing in the world to be at Apple.

I remember when I worked at a bar during sophomore year of college and I had to be there all day and it was just fucking miserable. The manager was just like, “Well, fuck you, I don’t care if it’s Thanksgiving. You’re not leaving. You have to be here.”

My cousins [and I] had this tradition where we don’t eat all day from the minute we wake up until dinner and then we would just pig out. And now it’s become a thing where all of us are stoners now so none of us can actually hold out all day, but we still try, and we still get really intense with each other. Even when my cousin moved to California, we’re all still in communication all day. To be honest, Thanksgiving is actually something that’s very special to me and working on Thanksgiving is something that I definitely have to try to push down my feelings to get through.

It’s not fair to feel trapped at work when everyone else is feeling this complete sense of love and togetherness with the rest of the world. And also, as a kid, I was never thinking, like, Oh shit, there’s gonna be a day where I have to work on Thanksgiving. For me, growing up, I just thought: Thanksgiving is going to be the best day ever and nothing’s ever going to get in the way of it! And then the real world hits you.

I really hate working holidays. Our grandparents aren’t going be around much longer. My grandma’s food isn’t always going to be sitting on the table. It does feel like time is of the essence. It’s more important for my mom that I’m there for the holidays than it is for me, so I just feel really bad when I can’t get there. If I have a night shift, I’ll go home and tuck myself into bed. If I do have something where I get off at 4:30 or 5:30, I’ll just do my best to hop on a train and get out to the suburbs to see my family for a little bit. I’m not the type of person to do anything special for myself. I’m not gonna cook myself a nice meal. It’s just going to be like every other day. I’m gonna try to pretend it’s not Thanksgiving.

*Names have been changed for privacy.

This article was originally published on