Friday's easy state of mind TGIF: Many people in Maryland find they don't accomplish much at the workweek's end, so they are simply taking the day off.

August 21, 1998|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Relax. Sit back. Take your time reading this story.

If you're like a lot of workers, you've got plenty of time.

It's a summertime Friday, a day that nudges a little closer to its weekend party pals and away from those other stodgy weekdays.

The evidence is everywhere. Eastbound traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ticks up on Thursday. The next day, Friday, trading on Wall Street tends to tick down. The roads open up. Workplace garages offer plenty of empty spaces. Golf courses are booked solid.

"Around noontime on Fridays it gets a little hectic here," said Tom Thompsett, a shop assistant at the Sparrows Point Country Club. "We get doctors, stockbrokers. It's a pretty diverse crowd. A lot of business people bring guests for lunch and then go out and play."

Larry Stern, general manager of Scientific Specialties Service Inc. in Hanover, has taken two Fridays off this summer and he's going to take another one off next month.

"Obviously everyone wants the extended weekend," he said. "But during the week, I get zero time to see my son, who is 2. This gives me quality time with him."

Some workers take a break after working hard the other four days. Some use Fridays to get out of the office and see clients. Some knock off early because they have trouble reaching other people.

Finally, some people just can't seem to get much done. In a May survey of 150 executives by Accountemps, a temporary employment firm, only 1 percent of respondents rated Friday as their most productive day.

That put Friday in last place. First place went to Tuesday, which was followed by Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

'TGIF phenomenon'

So instead of working a little on Fridays, many people are taking it off all together. "I'm not sure it's just a summertime thing," said John P. Robinson, a professor of sociology and director of the Americans' Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland's Survey Research Center. "There is a real TGIF phenomenon."

Robinson said workers' tendency to take Fridays off is likely the result of a shift in the economy away from manufacturing and toward service industries.

"If you're in a service occupation, as soon as your job is done you don't have to be there," said Robinson, co-author of "Time for Life," a book that disputes the argument that Americans are working more than ever. "The punch clock is gone. I suspect what's happening is that a lot of these arrangements are being made under the table."

Whatever the case, summer Fridays are slower at work than the rest of week. Consider the week ending Friday, July 24 -- a day smack in the middle of the summer.

On Wednesday, July 22, for instance, 33,990 cars crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toward Rehoboth Beach, Del., and Ocean City. The next day -- a Thursday -- 37,791 cars made the journey -- well short of the 51,975 on Friday but 10 percent higher than Wednesday.

"There have been a few more thousand cars on Thursdays than in previous years," said Louis Kelley, the bridge's administrator, who has watched traffic on the bridge for 39 years. "There are those indeed who are taking Fridays off and extending the weekend."


'Lighter than normal'

In Baltimore on Friday, July 24, The Sun's 643-space parking garage had 198 empty spaces at 10 a.m., compared with 124 on the previous day. A late start for some folks? Not likely. At 2 p.m., there were 187 empty spaces, compared with 140 on Thursday.

On Wall Street that Friday, trading was slow. The volume of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 84 million shares, down from almost 95 million the previous day. The Nasdaq Composite Index reported volume of 598 million shares, down from 831 million the day before.

And at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore, which began showing "Saving Private Ryan" with an afternoon matinee, owner Tom Kiefaber said he warned viewers that it was a three-hour movie so they might want to check in with their offices. "Some people got up and you could hear them on their cell phones or the pay phone saying things like, 'This meeting is going to last longer than I thought it would,' " Kiefaber said.

"Detour Dave" Sandler, a radio traffic reporter, might have the best view of the Friday phenomenon. "Friday mornings are not a problem," said Sandler, who reports for WBAL and WIYY radio stations from an airplane. "If there's any day that is lighter than normal, it's Friday morning."

The only thing lighter than Friday morning traffic might be Friday afternoon work.

Pat Vaughan, an executive vice president of Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. and manager of the Brokerage's Baltimore office, said the office's 34 brokers generally show up Friday mornings. Come afternoon, he said, a quarter of them are gone. "I think it would be fair to say that some people are going to take the opportunity to go the golf courses with clients," Vaughan said.

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