What Do People Do All Day?

Richard Scarry, c1968.


Pete Holmes said “I don’t understand any occupation that can’t be described in [that] Richard Scarry book” and I immediately became nervous that my occupation was not mentioned in said book and that I had somehow failed at something.

Although familiar with Richard Scarry’s work through his confidently named Best Story Book Ever and of course The Busy World of Richard Scarry, I had never encountered this particular book. And based on my recollections of Huckle’s obsession with fire fighters and Lowly Worm’s aviation hobby I became increasingly worried that my career choices would not be up to snuff according to their preferred level of excitement.
Also adding to my dread was the fact I couldn’t even remember that girl cat’s name, or any girl character’s name for that matter except “Mama”.
I sped the last quarter mile to work hoping a copy was checked in.


The first time I paged through this book I did not find a librarian anywhere.


The second time I scanned through the book more carefully I became indignant.  How could there not be a library in this incredibly detailed description of Busytown?  The first page included a poet, a story writer and a book printer!  So where do all the books GO Mr. Scarry?

I read about the traumatic experience that lead to Huckle’s obsession with fires as he was trapped and subsequently saved from the upstairs playroom by a brave firefighter who tossed him out the window onto a net.  I learned about how Jason, the mason and Sawdust, the carpenter built Stitches, the tailor’s house. I felt betrayed by my favorite character, Lowly Worm, who after being absent for the entire book finally appeared frolicking in the flour mill under the heading “Where Bread Comes From”.  I am (recently and reluctantly) Gluten Free.  Yet still no sign of a librarian.

In disgust I slammed the back cover closing the book on the masses of giant fluffy baguettes, dinner rolls and loaves of white bread being devoured by Lowly and Able Baker Charlie and what did I find?


In the middle of the back cover a sign that read PUBLIC LIBRARY!
And sitting in the window as a patron fox leaves with an armful of books was a little grey cat in a blue dress and white collar with a serene look of confident wisdom on her face.  She doesn’t have a caption that says “a librarian” under her like the “ditch digger” does on page 2 but atop the library it says “Veritas” and she’s looking directly at the reader.

We all know who she is.


Don Draper needs to read this book.  It was published in 1968 so Gene Draper probably has it on a shelf somewhere in the Francis mausoleum.  Don is at a crossroads and needs to find a new direction.

“Creative Director” and “Advertising” are not mentioned anywhere in What People Do All Day but that’s okay because neither is “Whorehouse”.  He might want to skip over the “Where corn comes from” section lest he be reminded of his miserable father and that horse kick that changed everything.  But otherwise I think this book could be just what Don needs to spark his second career.

As an added bonus if Don sits down and reads the book to Gene then perhaps Draper child number three won’t be as screwed up as those lost causes Sally and Bobby!

Chalk it up as a win.


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