Friday, July 15, 2016

Labour & Pop Culture: Five O'Clock World

This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Five O’Clock World”, originally recorded by The Vogues. On the surface, the song is a typical ode to quitting time. 

But looking a bit more deeply into the lyrics, there is an interesting mention about the “game face” many people put on in the workplace (“And there’s a five o’clock me inside my clothes”) when their real passions (in this case, “a long-haired girl who waits, I know/To ease my troubled mind, yeah”) and personalities emerge.

One of the more interesting aspects the grievance work that I have done for my union is getting to know my co-workers away from the workplace. It is endlessly fascinating to contrast the “real” people from the “them” I know at work (although, admittedly, the real person I’m seeing is often in great distress so may not be a true representation of who they are—often that emerges only months and years later as the crisis passes and we keep in touch).

It is also interesting to see the strategies that some of these folks employ to cope with the demands of work. Some adopt a very carefully constructed persona to cope with difficult circumstances or co-workers and are very conscious to meticulously play the part they have created. Others may just simply suppress certain aspects of their personality or certain reactions in order to get by. Sometimes, this intentional lack of authenticity takes a great emotional toll.

Many of us will (unfortunately…) recognize this song from The Drew Carey Show. I picked a moodier version of the song by Hal Ketchum.

Up every mornin' just to keep a job
I gotta fight my way through the husslin' mob
Sounds of the city poundin' in my brain
While another day goes down the drain

But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows
No one owns a piece of my time
And there's a five o'clock me inside my clothes
Thinkin' that the world looks fine, yeah
Holiday, yeah...

Tradin' my time for the pay I get
Livin' on money that I ain't made yet
Gotta keep goin', gotta make my way
While I live for the end of the day

'Cause it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows
No one owns a piece of my time
And there's a long-haired girl who waits, I know
To ease my troubled mind, yeah
Holiday, yeah...

In the shelter of her arms everything's okay
She talks and the world goes slippin' away
And I know the reason I can still go on
When every other reason is gone

In my five o'clock world she waits for me
Nothin' else matters at all
'Cause everytime my baby smiles at me
I know that it's all worthwhile, yeah
Holiday, yeah...(X3)

-- Bob Barnetson

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