Some lazy thoughts

June 1, 2007
On a news show, I listened to an expert talk about how lazy we are as workers. The the next day, I read an article by a contributor to The New York Times.

by Mark Hartley

On a news show, I listened to an expert talk about how lazy we are as workers. The the next day, I read an article by a contributor to The New York Times. The author is a graduate of Harvard who now interviews prospective applicants for arguably America’s most prestigious university. Very few of his recommendations are accepted. To hear him tell it, he might as well stamp “reject” on the applications himself.

But he writes in The Times, “Why do I continue to interview? It’s very moving meeting all these bright young people who won’t get into Harvard ... meeting the soon-to-be rejected makes me hopeful about young people. They are far more accomplished than I was at their age and without a doubt will do superbly wherever they go.”

So I’m guessing the first expert above wasn’t talking about those lazy bums we call our kids. Maybe he was talking about people who are older.

However, hermits date back to the Middle Ages, at the very least. While a reclusive lifestyle does not necessarily indicate laziness, who knew? How do you pass the time if you’re not earning big bucks to live in a mansion? Early Christians thought laziness (sloth) was a sin. If no one was committing the sin, why point it out as being one? Hobos and bums date back to the 1800s. Tramp is back to being gender-specific (unsavory females), but the definition once targeted lazy males too. Slacker emerged as a buzz word in the 1990s (probably after the references in the Back to the Future films), but it originally was a term of derision for lazy draft dodgers during the 20th Century’s two world wars.

The labor expert, though, talked fondly about how our grandparents walked 20 miles each way in the snow and sleet so we could have a better life. On the other hand, we spend our shifts surfing the Internet, or in even less productive ways. The journalist interviewing him countered with how modern technology has affected us. We take work home with us via computers, e-mails, and cell phones.

Mr. Productivity basically sneered at the thought that technology is turning us into 24/7 laborers. If we just worked a little bit harder during our shifts, we wouldn’t need to do anything afterwards.

Well, maybe.

I dislike my cell phone for as many reasons as I like it, so weeks will comfortably pass by before I turn it on again. As some of you know, I will write emails late in the evening or on weekends. It’s usually not because I have to “catch up” as much as it’s getting an early start on the next work day.

Our work culture thrives when a certain number of gizmos are created, assembled, and delivered in a certain time span. It’s how the bottom line works.

Let me be the first to say, “Grandpa and Grandma did a fine job of it too.”

I’m not sure, however, if I agree that the current crop of American workers are lazy.

I read a lot of articles about work ethics before I pass them along to you. According to some experts, the truly productive dental hygienist works very hard to generate a large amount of revenue. Some of the “work” generated, though, doesn’t really have that much to do with health.

Shouldn’t you get a pass on common definitions of work ethic because of the nature of health care? Shouldn’t you just leap into action when somebody is actually sick? If no one is sick, should the doctor care if you decide to take a breather before the next sick person arrives? Apparently, they do. No one likes the idea of a dental hygienist having an idle moment to surf the Internet for a sugar-free recipe for dinner.

Is that “full measure of service” in the dental hygiene oath on some sort of time clock?

The truth is that many patients are sick in dental offices. But we regard periodontal diseases in a very cavalier way as a society. I’ve seen a minor scrape on an arm generate more alarm and treatment than periodontal disease.

A couple of lazy images linger in my mind. An abstract from the May issue of the Journal of Periodontology pointed to statistics that periodontally healthy women face far fewer odds of delivering a preterm low birth weight baby. What lazy bums don’t want better survival odds for children?

The other image I have is the excellent work of the ADHA, Casey Hein of Grand Rounds in Oral-Systemic Medicine, and others in generating public awareness about the impact of oral health on overall health.

It’s evident to me that dental hygienists possess an excellent work ethic. Is it channeled in the right direction? Probably not. Wouldn’t you rather be busy in the way you were meant to be busy?