Tom, you certainly do not have a normal American job. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that you're working for the state, and you've been there so long. I wouldn't be surprised if you even have a pension!
My wife and I have worked for several private companies in the last few years, and normal conditions are more like 3-4 weeks PTO (Paid Time Off) which includes sick time, doctors appointments, holidays (if the business is open on holidays), dependent care for sick kids, and finally vacation IF there's any left over.
True, you can earn more PTO after 5 years, 10 years, and so on, but that assumes you stay at one company for your whole career. Almost nobody does that anymore or simply can't due to layoffs, buyouts, etc. Most people start back at the base level as soon as they change companies (unless you're a good negotiator) which means you might never really ever have a lot of vacation.
Only "blue-collar" type jobs get paid 1.5x for overtime. It's the law. But if your job requires a college education, 99% of the time you'll only be paid for 40 hours, even if you work a lot more, since the law exempts those workers.
My company requires that I work more than 40 hours sometimes if a critical project comes up. I don't mind doing it occasionally, especially when I can tell it's very important to the company's financial goals. It's not the norm, though.
I heard a story of someone at work getting reprimanded by his boss for working so many overtime hours (even more than the boss!). He was told at the end of the year that he needed to learn to manage his time better. :-)