Are you as lazy as my sister-in-law?

by John Harvin

My sister in law is lazy. Bone lazy. Dog lazy. Lazy lazy.

She’s the only one in her family like that. My wife, her sister, goes like a hamster on meth–working, child-raising, charities, training for the New York marathon—you name it. My brother in law works ten hard hours each day, comes home and teaches himself stonework so he can build a new wall in front of his house. My sister in law complains.

But this post is not about her, it’s about a litmus test for laziness. Wonder if you’re lazy? Here’s how to tell. 100% guaranteed.

After my father-in-law died, four of us cleaned out his Ohio house. My wife, brother-in-law and I worked six non-stop hours clearing twenty years of accumulation in the garage—it’s amazing how many half-full cans of WD-40 one man can own—while my sister-in-law spent the morning chatting with the realtor about “marketing strategies.” Just as we finished, the realtor left. My sister-in-law descended into the empty garage, saw the three of us sitting on the now spotless floor drinking pop, sighed and walked past us to a coat-rack, where she removed three hangers, and said with all seriousness, “I guess it’s up to me to do everything.”

That’s the test for laziness. If you think you aren’t, you are. If you think you are, you aren’t. My sis-in-law thinks she works non-stop, and complains more than my right knee on a black diamond slope. My work-a-holic wife thinks the day is too short because she can’t do everything she wants to get done.

There are three types of personal characteristics: ones that people seem to get pretty much right, a set which people tend to fudge a bit, and another set, like laziness, that people seem to get exactly 180 degrees wrong.

For example, ask someone if they’re good at math. People know. No one ever says they’re good when they’re not, or vice versa. Or handy with tools. Or good with directions. Or athletic. People know exactly where they stand.

Then there’s another set of attributes that people fudge on. Ask someone if they’re attractive. Very few people will actually say, “No, I’m repulsive.” Instead people fudge. They say “In my own way,” or “Some people think so,” or “I’m beautiful inside.” Ask someone if they’re clean, and they will rarely say, “I’m a slob. The CDC has an entire wing devoted to tracking the pathogens in my bathroom sink.” Instead they might well say, “I’m clean, but messy.” I’d guess most traits fall into this bucket. Good with money. Or smart. Or likable. We would all fudge if asked those questions. Most of us see our personal glass two-thirds full rather than half-empty.

But then there are the Catch-22 traits, the ones where our self-perceptions are the exact opposite of reality. Like laziness. Or being garrulous. Ask a windbag about people that talk too much and you’ll get an hour lecture on how much he hates people like that. Or boring. Or cheap. Cheap people think that since they paid for the Thai food in 2004, that pretty much clears them for eternity. Or, strangely enough, color blindness. I’ve known three color blind people, all of whom insisted they could see colors perfectly well, even though they always looked like they dressed in the dark. Once in an earlier life, I tortured a color blind co-worker by giving him pop quizzes, using the various bits of colored wire from a phone cable. After he failed each quiz, he would take the piece of wire and find someone else in the building and ask them. Of course they would tell him it was purple or whatever. But instead of helping him understand he really was color blind, this merely convinced him there was a vast conspiracy out to get him. Which brings us to another of those 180 traits: paranoia. If you think you’re not paranoid, you are. Etc.

Clearly our current political discourse is all about 180 degree perceptions. Rush calling Obama a racist. Sarah calling people clueless. Karl worried about government encroachment on people’s rights and budget overruns. And the same rules pretty much apply. Anyone who says they’re not at least a little racist, probably is.

So my question to the S&R crew is: What’s the full list? What personality traits or characteristics are always perceived by the owner exactly opposite of reality?

OK, OK, I know this topic is not as profound as Dr. Sammy’s series on religious scope-creep or as revealing as Wufink’s analysis of expectations bias in earnings announcements. But then again, it’s easy for them to think big thoughts, they don’t have to deal with my sister-in-law.

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5 replies »

  1. Thanks for raising this topic, which has conflicted me for my whole life.

    I think of myself as a supremely lazy person. I told somebody last week that if they see me working, it’s just because I haven’t figured a way out of it yet. And I come by this honest – if you saw my father sweating, all that meant was that the temperature and humidity around the recliner was unusually high.

    On the other hand, people comment all the time about how much I get done, and the truth is that I’m not good at sitting still. If I’m not working, I’m probably doing something with the blog, which is like work except that it pays even less.

    So maybe I’m the laziest hard-working guy I know. As for your question, the definitive answer has to be intelligence. A study a few years back showed that stupid people don’t know they’re stupid, which I could have told you. You never meet somebody who doesn’t think they’re pretty bright, but in truth most people are dumb as a bag of lawn clippings.

    Maybe, then, another quality would be self-awareness. People think they have a lot more of that than they actually do, as well.

  2. Sorry I can’t contribute to the list. But I think many people who might be called lazy are in ill health, often without knowing it, and just lack energy. Think auto-immune disorders or diabetes and, more to the point, depression. Of course, we all know somebody who’s got sleazing out of work down to a fine art.

  3. Oh, I’m pretty sure I’m lazy. I just get a bee in a bonnet every once in a while, but if there’s no bee and the work doesn’t seem enjoyable to me, rest assured I will put it off.

  4. Oh lord my sister is dumb as dogshit and lazy as all get out and totally self absorbed. She seriously thinks the world revolves around her and her super busy life. Unfortunately she is also completely unaware of how dumb, lazy, disorgnaised and self absorbed she is. I was a co-executor with her on my mums will, I gave her an out as I knew I would have to do all the work. She insisted on being an executor even though she is useless, which she was happy to demonstrate as she was co-executor (with my brother) on my fathers will and she did nothing except turn up to the office to sign the forms. i did probate, transfer property sorted out bank accounts etc. My mums will was challenged and I ended up doing all the work, the only things she did was turn up to meetings which had to be organized around her schedule and sign a few forms. She needed to be freqently reminded to return forms It was a serious nightmare. There was one small task she needed to do for my fathers will and she couldn’t even manage that, I am doing it now, she made some piss weak excuse why she couldn’t do it, and only demonstrated how truly dumb she is. She is full of excuses. She blows a lot of hot air but never delivers. But if you talk to her she will tell you what a fabulous work ethic she has, how super smart she is and the only reason she her house looks pig sty is because she works outside the home. Thank God my mothers estate is nearly wound up, it will be a huge relief for her as it was all so stressful and took up so much of her precious time. LOL