Let’s shut. It. Down.
To: The United States of America
From: Dodai Stewart
Subject: The Case for a National One-Week Vacation
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2021
Hey! I hope this email finds you as well as can be.
So, look. As the subject line of this memo suggests, I think the entire nation needs a simultaneous week off.
A PAID week off.
This won’t work unless you’re on board. All of you. The government and corporations and small businesses and each and every citizen is a part of this. We need 100 percent participation. Someone (looking at you, maybe, Treasury folks?) has to front the cash. And it has to be a clean, defined break, sharp as a knife. No amorphous gooey, bouncy, rolling spring break. One solid week. No one works. NOTHING happens. No work. No work emails, no schoolwork, no one working in the restaurants or making robocalls. Full nation vacation!
Important: For this one week, there would be no internet. No Instagram Lives, no Netflix and chill, no gaming streams on Twitch. It is a self-care break, and part of the deal is that you have to unplug. In this scenario, we’d all be vaccinated and the weather would be perfect. Go outside and frolic!
We’d prepare the same way you do for a camping trip: Get your groceries, get your gear. Picnic blankets, beer, first-aid kit. Maybe a Frisbee.
And then … everything would just stop. We could all take a deep breath and go outside. Feel the sunshine. Sit in the park. Hike. Bird watch. Make out with a stranger.
Stress would melt away. For one beautiful spring week, the flowers will bloom and we will all be reborn. Refreshed. Rejuvenated.
We have been through a lot over the last year or so. It’s become quite obvious that nationwide, neurons are absolutely fried. Every cell in our collective bodies has been bathing in cortisol.
Many of our usual means of escape — travel to other countries, spa bookings, bar crawls — have been deemed off-limits, since they’re not compatible with C.D.C. guidelines.
At the same time, leaders from all kinds of walks of life have suggested we come together to heal. How can we heal when we’re drained and exhausted?
The prescription: One week off. Mandatory timeout. Perhaps we want to consider timing this to coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in certain states? Just a suggestion.
If we plan properly and there’s universal buy-in, there will be nothing going on. No crime; therefore no need for police supervision or for anyone to staff the 911 lines. Garbage pick up? It can wait!
The subways and buses and airlines won’t be running; this is a stay-local, think-global event. It’s not just a chance to restore mental health, but also to reduce carbon emissions — while finally finishing one of the many books on our night stands.
Everyone in the news media would be on this break, so there would be no 24-hour news cycle. CNN could just show back-to-back John Wick movies. The network TV evening news slots would be preprogrammed with romantic comedies; the Weather Channel would just have K-dramas.
What I’m trying to say, with a sprinkle of charm and a whole lot of gravitas, is this: Shut it down. Shut it all down.
I know you have a lot of questions. How will hospitals function? Who will feed the tigers at the zoo? How does it all work?
I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. But I think if we can huddle together — my calendar is up-to-date, feel free to slot some time on there — we can make this happen. A nationwide OOO.
Dodai Stewart is a writer and the deputy editor of Narrative Projects at The New York Times.