By Ed Brock

Feroz Lalani spent July 4 tending to the needs of travelers who pulled off Interstate 75 for service at the gas station where he works.

"They usually go to the restroom and then ask for directions," said Lalani, a clerk at the Chevron station on Forest Parkway.

Lalani is fairly new on the job, so as low man on the totem pole he drew the holiday shift. He didn't mind much.

"I have worked holidays before," Lalani said.

Lalani was far from being the only person in Clayton County who had to spend Monday behind a counter or otherwise on the job.

Independence Day was almost like a regular work day at the Atlanta State Farmer's Market in Forest Park.

Peaches are in season now, said Vickie Reagan as she sat by her stand where she sold baskets full of the fruit. And when other people have the day off from their jobs she can do a lot of business, Reagan said.

And of course the Clayton County jail was open for business, taking in those criminals who were also working that day. With only 26 corrections officers to work a jail that requires a staff of 30, holidays are especially hard because the inmates know it's a holiday, too, Sgt. Grant Kidd said.

"We watch for suicides, we watch for escapes. We have to be more cautious on holidays than on regular days," Kidd said. "The mission continues and we continue with the mission."

To ease the burden for his staff, most of whom are working overtime because the jail is understaffed anyway, Sheriff Victor Hill had his department's official cook, Corrections Officer Terry Lofton, whip up a barbecue lunch.

"It's tough for them to work on a holiday and be away from their families," Hill said. "We try to create a family atmosphere here."

Lofton said he started cooking at 6:30 a.m., preparing enough chicken, beef and pork ribs and more to feed everybody.

"I love it. I'm trying to get back in some competitions," Lofton said.

Deputy Eugene Nobles was manning the visitors entrance where family and friends of the inmates were pouring in to spend part of the holiday with their incarcerated loved ones. Like Kidd, Nobles was working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"Over all it's been a pretty good day," Nobles said. "We've had no conflicts today. Let's hope it stays that way."

The day was double hard for Sandra Morgan of Jonesboro. Not only did she have to go to work for most of the day, she had to spend an hour of her time visiting her boyfriend who's in the jail after being arrested on a 10-year-old warrant.

"Nobody likes coming here," Morgan said.

But at least things would improve for Morgan by that night when she would go to her sister's house for fireworks.