An influential memory of my childhood was visiting my old dad -- a newspaperman, the term before journalism became gentrified -- at his office. This was a crowded den of tobacco smoke, clattering typewriters and pneumatic tubes shooting copy to the printers.
It was there that I met my dad's friend Dusty Rhodes, who was called Dusty because in that era it was the compulsory moniker for everybody named Rhodes. His real name was possibly Clarence or George and he probably wore a green eyeshade, because that also was traditional.
To an impressionable young fellow introduced to such a grimy and seedy habitat of colorful characters, the thought inevitably came: "Gee, I'd like to work here. Who wouldn't?" Thus did I eventually become one of the first recorded victims of the concept behind Take Your Child to Work Day, although that didn't yet exist and I visited just briefly.
These memories are prompted by the recent celebration of the official day, which also is known as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Other variants exist, such as Take (or Bring) Your Kids to Work Day. As yet, a Park Your Offspring at Work Day is not current, although that might be the most honest.
The day itself began a few years ago as an exclusive activity for daughters on the theory -- which I won't dispute -- that girls aren't encouraged to consider careers.
But because proper distinctions are increasingly impossible to make in America, a misplaced cry of unfairness went up and boys were added to make the day gender-generic, obscuring its original purpose.
So on the designated Thursday, the girls and boys came in and my employer welcomed them -- as it should. While formal activities were minimal, a tour was put on, and for the rest of the time the kids traipsed around in varying degrees of boredom just like regular employees.
The trouble is that newspaper offices are not what they were. They are still dusty, but the romance has gone and it is rare for anybody to be named Dusty. Yes, weird characters still exist -- but enough about management.
Still, something unprecedented happened the other day. In my small department, we are older and our children have fled the nest, so we had none to bring in. But a political candidate came for an interview and with him came his campaign manager who brought his 9-year-old son.
That was fine -- he was well behaved. But the poor kid was subjected to a discussion of arcane political doings guaranteed to anesthetize anybody. It is a fair bet that kid is not following his father into campaign managing or us into journalism. Instead, he'll join the Foreign Legion or else drive in demolition derbies.
Some of our young visitors had a better experience. I asked a colleague how his two daughters got on and he said they enjoyed the tour and later had fun playing with their iPods. For this they stayed out of school.
Actually, some visiting kids came from schools that were still on vacation, but the thought that others had missed school irritated my inner curmudgeon. "Kids today!" I inwardly ranted. "Back in the day (the Paleolithic Era), we didn't take whole days off school to goof off at our dad's or mom's work! What's next? Take Your Kid's Teacher to Work Day With Your Kid?"
But then I was asked to take a little girl and her mother (one of our reporters) for a tour because they had missed the regular one. Of course, I did, and, of course, the little girl charmed me and banished all bad thoughts.
Not all bad thoughts. If we are going to feature the kids, I think we need to entertain the adults -- which is why I propose a Bring Your Mistress to Work Day. Those ladies don't get enough respect and one can't very well bring them home (for the record, I do not have a mistress -- for some reason, my wife refuses to process their applications).
I know, I know, women will then demand an equal-time Bring Your Lover to Work Day, and all sorts of cheesy characters will be strutting around the office with open-neck shirts and too much jewelry. Gross!
Indeed gross, but then so is subjecting young children to endless meetings and talk of obscure issues. No, this society needs fewer designated days and more kids going with their mom or dad to work on informal, unscheduled visits -- as I once fatefully did. Every dog has his day, but kids need to stay in school.
Reg Henry is deputy editorial-page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email, email@example.com.
By REG HENRY