The Bird That Never Rests - Dr Mike Colson
“The Bird That Never Rests” (A Commentary on Work) - Dr Mike Colson
On the African veld where I spent most of my adult life, there are flocks of birds that flit and dive to and fro. Most are innocuous types, unless of course a circle of vultures make more than the casual sweep of your personal space. But one in particular, the “inyoni angiphumuli”, will drive you nuts. Early in the morning, with rooster-like endurance, they call out Eeee-ahhhh, ca ca ca, Eeee-ah ! Then bolt to a different location and call out again. Their name is literally translated “the bird that never rests”. Which reminds me that we live in a world that requires this bird-like kind of productivity out of all of us. Ever notice that we are so accustomed to measuring our performance that we now refer to everything in percentages. “Hey, I’m giving it 100%,” says one guy. Another chimes in; “on this job you have to give it 110%.” Now that’s a figure that drives the math purists crazy. But think about it, where have all these never ending percentages come from? We’ve got non-alcoholic bar graphs, spreadsheets that don’t fly and pie charts that taste like...well, paper! And every guy in America says at least once an argument the phrase; “ninety nine times out of hundred.” Who puts the stats together that make it always 9 out of 10, or 999 out of 1000? The exacting argumentarian (read “management”) will even throw in a decimal point; i.e. 99.999, a figure that leaves little room for any opposing view just because he passed algebra. I am coming around to the opinion that people only view themselves as valuable when they can prove their usefulness. Listen around in the work-a-day world and you’ll hear folks metricalizing on their overall good for the organization. Ever here this one - “Ninety-nine guys out of a hundred would have quit this dump where 20% of the workers do 80% of the work. Sure we got a 3% increase in pay, but my bills are 12% higher since last year. I’m giving 110%, but 50% of that is spent doing useless stuff. ” Now there’s a guy with an ax to grind and the facts to back it up. The problem is, who is measuring what? And why are we measuring in the first place? (Forgive me Robbie !) It might be that someone got the dosage all wrong. When we’re born, some fella who works for the government slips into maternity hatchery and injects the little wee lads and lasses with “the work ethic serum.” The Freedom of Information Act has revealed that the dosage amount was screwed up by computer error as a result of underfunding during the Cold War, but its too late to change. We may not be Stepford worker bees, but we certainly are not members of the Banana Republic siesta team. We work, prove our worth on the basis of sweat and cold hard success, then try to scrounge up enough energy in the waning years of life to steer those big motor homes (with the portable spare vehicle in tow) down the interstate. Work hard, push the envelope from the inside, get a regular rectal check up and - for God’s sake - don’t forget to vote, play with the kids, write a letter home, take a vacation, digest your lunch, workout, beat traffic, correct your slice, drive four hours to fish for one, buy as big a house as you can and then keep it clean, fertilize your lawn then cut it like hell, and always wear your seat belt - even while parked! My father-in-law always tells me to stop and smell the roses. A point not lost of weary travelers who are in the grip of the barrenness of a busy life. The problem with roses is that 8 out of 10 don’t really smell nice and the one that does has got bee in it. My God, I’ve become that stinking bird - Eeee-ah, ca ca ca!