Wednesday, July 25

Lighten Up While I Still Can

As we were walking up the Big Hill this morning, my friend G. and I compared notes on our childhood careers as itinerant fruit pickers. Though I grew up in Seattle, and she grew up in New Zealand, we each got shipped off, with our siblings, to the berry fields every summer to earn money – me, strawberries and raspberries; her, blueberries and strawberries.

We both copped to eating about half the berries we picked (I’ve never let a generous portion of dirt spoil my appetite.), but G.’s sister had an envious talent for holding her blueberry bucket in just the right way so that she could efficiently and quickly pluck hundreds of berries to every handful that G. managed to collect. Consequently, she outearned G. day in and day out...not because she was a harder worker, but because, in fact, she was lazier.

* * *

And here we run headlong into today’s theme. To quote me pappy: “The best workers are the laziest workers.”

Lazy waitresses, he says, figure out how to carry six plates of food in one trip. People who aren’t as lazy just make three trips. I’m lazy, so I write macros to automate every repetitive bit of editing I do. I’m a very efficient editor. My grandpa cut a hole in the bathroom cabinet over the laundry room so he could toss his undies down the chute without hauling a laundry basket to the basement.

In fact, my father theorizes, all of human progress can be attributed to one human characteristic: We’re lazy buggers. We get tired of limping, so we invent shoes. We’re too lazy to walk, so we tame horses. Riding horses is too much exercise, so we invent cars. Driving takes too long, so we invent airplanes.

Remote controls were invented because making your kid jump up to change the channel required too much shouting. We invented calculators and spreadsheets because we’re too lazy to do long division. Air conditioning is easier than hand-held fans, rust-resistant paint is easier than repairing rust spots, scouring pads are easier than using fingernails.

Ever try beating your enemy with a stick? Enter, guns. Wrestling violent criminals to the ground is too much work, so now we just taser ’em. Ditto with every other device that distinguishes us from animals. (Or makes us worse than animals, but you get the point.)

* * *

Johnny Walker has a theory about exercise. Your body, he says, is lazy. It knows how to be very, very efficient. The thinner you get, the harder you have to work, because your body learns how to maximize its ability to get work out of itself without wasting calories – or fat.

So 20 minutes of exercise when I’m pushing Porky the Pig’s backside around the gym is hard work. But when I drop 50 pounds, my body can take a nap while I put in my 20 minutes, because I’m suddenly way more efficient. Not only is it pushing less weight around; it’s also simply better at pushing, and takes much less effort to do the same amount of work.

That’s good news if I’m a construction worker.

But if I’m a chunky lardo runnin’ down the road, trying to loosen my load, it’s maybe not such a great thing. It means every day I have to work longer, and harder, than the day before to get the same results.

And that stinks. Almost as much as my sweatshirt. Because now, instead of binding up dainty girl damp, my sweatshirt actually earns its name. I'm doing real workouts, where sweat collects in places I didn't even know had pores. And I have to peel the darned thing over my head and toss it into the wash when I get home each day. Like I said. Stinks.


Today, still flyin’ with Eagles: Take It Easy (1972).


  1. Okay, how about this: try a weight vest when you're doing your cardio. What does Johnny Walker think about those?

    1. There you go. Perhaps I could sling a few cans of chili con carne around my hips next time I take a walk. Is there a better use for my erstwhile mountain of food storage?