When I was a kid, I remember my father going out to run errands early on Saturday mornings. In that era, the term “banker’s hours” was not a metaphor but a reality, and you paid in cash for everything but expensive items, for which you used a bank card, or a store-issued credit card like at Strawbridge’s. The bank was always on the run, as was the post office, to buy stamps or to mail things that he wanted delivered early in the following week. You weren’t going to use a card to buy your coffee at Wawa. At the grocery store, you cashed a paper check.
Philadelphia’s Girard Bank was among the first to open automated tellers, called “George” and set in climate-controlled glass booths. If you are tempted to call George “an ATM machine” then please go somewhere else and figure out what the “M” in ATM represents. George was an exciting novelty and my father taught me how to use it as soon as he figured it out. With George, he could get cash outside of banker’s hours, but the post office still closed by noon on Saturday, and the dry cleaners was only open until 1 and the hardware store until sometime in the afternoon. If the state store – another tale for another time – was on the list then it also had short hours on Saturday.
Nothing was open on Sunday. That’s how it was on Saturday mornings, men getting out to take care of things that they could not do during the week. There was a mission and a plan. It wasn’t a frenzy but he had to get moving at a decent hour and keep moving until he finished.
When I worked at Strawbridge and Clothier, from time to time we would open very early on a Saturday morning, maybe 7. I liked working those shifts. For the first few hours of the day, the only customers were men buying – not shopping – alone. They would come in, ask what they wanted to know, buy what they needed, and move on.
It's still this way. On a Saturday morning, from dawn to about nine, give or take, depending on the location and the time of year, the world is in Guy Time. You will see men with errands to run and things that have to be done.
I spend most Saturday mornings at my Masonic lodge, learning how to be a better Mason and a better man. It’s the same group of brothers each week. True to form, we are working, but we are also checking in with each other. I won’t go into the details, which are really beside the point anyway. If I’m not at the lodge then I’m probably at my church, with the Bad Boys for Jesus, doing what needs to be done there.
Most of the world sleeps late on Saturday morning most of the time and I get it, totally understand the appeal, but in the quiet of the empty streets and businesses, the conversation that says enough to get it said without wasting a word, the dry humor, the pervasive practicality, the sense of accomplishment and certainty of responsibilities met, there is something about being a man. That is Saturday morning Guy Time.