I WANT a work ethic.
Why can’t I just buy one and plug it in?
How do people get them, anyway? Are they genetic? Environmental? Training?
It’s not that I don’t work hard. I work very hard. But I want to be able to see the point.
I want to be able to jump out of bed in the mornings eager to wash the car; skipping breakfast so I can get to the office.
This is not a whim. All my life I’ve been aware that the people around me were eager to climb into suits and sit and desks saying things like: ‘market development functionality’ and ‘demographic notional context’.
At weekends those same people climb into overalls and clean gutters, build a bar in the corner of the lounge room, retile the bathroom.
I just used to lie in bed enjoying those exquisite moments between waking up and getting up, when you drift in and out of consciousness. When I was 16 this exercise, properly executed, could last till 2pm.
I can’t do it any more. the work ethic thing has spoiled it for me. It’s true what they say: a guilty conscious doesn’t stop you doing a thing; it just stops you enjoying it. And if you can’t enjoy being idle, what’s the point!
I have a bad feeling it’s too late for me now. I’m reaching the age when I’m finding it harder to justify the need for a work ethic.
I mean, why would I clean the gutters? Why would I convert the garage into a spare room? Why does the fence need fixing?
None of these things will fit in an urn; not even in a coffin!
Someone said it to Provide For My Old Age, so I wouldn’t have to survive my final years on carrots and boiled rice, but those who know my family will know I’m been surviving on carrots and boiled rice for the past eight years. It will be no hardship. Thin gruel will make a nice change.
Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones. I suspect work ethics are addictive. Fifty years after you first inhale, you discover you’re hooked. You roam the house looking for a picture to hang, or you watch the telly with a lapful of sewing. And when, one day, you discover you’ve done everything — every washer is replaced, every surface polished — your body and brain don’t know how to cope, and they explode.
That won’t happen to me. For me the dying process will be so slow people will have to prod me every couple of hours for several months to find out if it’s happened yet.
But the question I’ll take to my grave is: Why not? Why didn’t I get one. Every day I observe people who embrace work with more relish than they embrace their partners, and they frighten me.
They frighten me – but I’m envious. Is it beyond my control? Was it my potty training? Or my Irish ancestry?
Or am I just a slob?
“Yes,” said my wife.
Oh come on! At least I embrace her with more relish than I embrace work!
“With your record,” she said. “That’s not a compliment.”