Unlimited PTO Diaries: Savannah's Storied Past
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the need for companies to help their employees unplug and recharge has never been more clear. Studies have shown that work-life balance is most strongly correlated with job satisfaction. At CrossComm, we are steadfast in our commitment to work-life balance and encourage our employees to use our guilt-free unlimited paid time off (PTO) benefit as a way of caring for themselves and their families. In the “Unlimited PTO Diaries,” we asked our employees to share how they celebrate life, outside of work.
Savannah’s Storied Past
When I first started working at CrossComm, I was introduced to a different work culture than I was accustomed to, one in which personal growth, meaning, and work satisfaction took priority. I was told that employees received unlimited PTO, a benefit I have never had in my entire life. What is that and is it real? I wondered.
I felt apprehensive about taking PTO within the few months I started, but given we had just moved to the South, my husband and I planned a four-day weekend to a select southern town. At the time, we relocated across the pond from Germany to North Carolina and spent a good six months in constant motion to settle into our new area (all during a pandemic). It was a much-needed vacation, and one that made me fall in love with a new city– Savannah, Georgia.
Food and Charm
Savannah is one of those places that speaks to a time of grandeur and intrigue. You can encounter many people walking around well-dressed and eccentric, with their velvety drawls. My favorite part is the culinary scene, which introduces tourists to the delicious southern style: fried green tomatoes, fish fry, fried…well there’s other non-fried things like shrimp and grits, but I prefer everything fried! Where good food meets a vibrant and charming atmosphere is what I always consider a perfect mini-vacation!
There’s another side to Savannah I’m most interested in, however. The land is steeped in stories (so many stories) of injustices, bad behaviors, and ghosts. Even now, as I recall the tours I took, I remember the chills I had strolling through the town squares. Our guides, in perfect Victorian-era character, would often say, “Over there, a scandal happened, and THERE, a crime of passion!”
I am a storyteller by trade, which means I take so much inspiration from my experiences and surroundings. To be able to weave some sort of drama into a piece of content requires me to close my eyes and remember a moment and feeling, and many times it’s from stories found in my travels. In Savannah, there’s so much to be intrigued by, so I’ll only highlight a few places. But, if you stick with me until the end of this blog, I will also tell you about a secret spot I found that allows for some legal bad behavior, and maybe inspire your own creative side.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
My favorite story from Savannah was illustrated in the acclaimed book-turned-movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s a true story that occurred in the Mercer House. The narrative goes something like this: antique dealer goes on trial for murder of his lover, but was it self defense or pre-meditated? Without giving too much away, imagine the story with fascinating characters (based on real-life people), and a bit of hoodoo. In fact, hoodoo is why the book is called, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It speaks to the practitioner’s tradition that good magic is done from around 11:30pm to midnight, and bad magic performed from midnight to 12:30am.
There are no pictures allowed in the house, but I assure you that it’s regal despite its dark past. I recommend you watch the movie for an inside look. The Mercer House has many tours available, but it is highly recommended to book in advance to guarantee admittance.
Bad Behaviors with Hatchets in History
If you’re interested in something historical, the Riverwalk holds the American Prohibition Museum, the only museum in the US dedicated to prohibition. What I found most fascinating was learning about the hatchetations. An anti-alcohol activist, named Carry Nation, committed acts of vandalism by using her hatchet to smash bottles, mirrors, and anything that could be found behind the bar of a saloon. She was often portrayed as someone unhinged and fearless, and her actions were branded as “hatchetations,” all of which went on for almost a decade.
The museum is definitely a great place to hear about many intriguing stories that happened during that time. There’s additionally some fun and interactive displays where you can learn about the gangsters of that era, and the lives of flapper girls too.
You can’t really go to Savannah without visiting one of its iconic cemeteries. But in all honesty, just walking through the town squares is essentially strolling through a cemetery in itself. It is why Savannah is considered one of the most haunted cities in the world. With countless battles, epidemics, and mistreatments of low-ranking soldiers, the poor, Native Americans, and enslaved people, many bodies were buried and forgotten.
Stately manors have been built over completely disregarded burial grounds. In fact, Black people were buried separately from Whites in designated graveyards, but around the late 1850s the city stopped recording who was buried in many of the graveyards. Two sites were even bulldozed and turned into town squares named after the Confederates, Calhoun and Whitefield. As I walked through the town squares, I can’t help but feel the pain of history, and I can’t help but hope that these real stories will teach us to be better people.
Now, dear readers, I have kept you waiting for that secret inspirational spot, located specifically in the Bonaventure. If you are to choose one cemetery to visit it should be, without question, the Bonaventure Cemetery. This particular burial is where Hoodoo was practiced in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I took an after-hours tour which allowed our group to be the only ones there in the early evening. The ambiance is both beautiful and eerie, and on some gravestones you can see remnants of magical practices continuing in the present day. The cemetery deserves its own blog, so I won’t get into all the stories it holds. I will tell you of a specific spot you should look for inside, where you should sit down and have a drink.
Yes, I said have a drink, because it’s encouraged to do so on top of Conrad Aiken’s grave. Conrad Aiken, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, and his wife used to visit Conrad’s parent’s grave at Bonaventure with a thermos filled with martini. To carry on the tradition, legend has it that he and his wife chose their marker at the cemetery to be a granite bench, rather than a gravestone. Their hope was that people could sit on their bench, look over the Wilmington River with martini in hand, and perhaps be inspired to write poetry. So there you have it. I hope you enjoy a drink of inspiration for me.
Final Reflection: Midnight in the Garden of Work and Balance
In the time before COVID-19, my jobs were largely in-person, consisting of the chaos of meeting project requirements with colleagues, or running hurriedly to complete a task for a deadline. Often, the hours were long and included dinners with clients, or late night prep for presentations. If I were to include the commute to work, I could count on being away from home twelve hours a day! It seemed everyone I knew worked this chaotic schedule, and I don’t think I had a clue what work-life balance was.
It wasn’t until I started working at CrossComm that I had a work philosophy shift and it is this: Work-life balance is the personal responsibility of an individual, but it can’t ever be possible without the intentional actions of a company to cultivate it. As a content creator in my work, I like to recharge in places like Savannah that not only provide needed rest, but also fuel my imagination. I want to thank CrossComm for allowing me to cultivate my creativity through PTO.