"Have you ever seen anyone work so hard at being so lazy?"
Alice has just been asked by her mother to refill the dog's food and water bowls. She doesn't really want to do it; after all, that sort of chore would take time and effort that could be better spent lounging on the sofa and playing video games.
But Alice is an inventive little devil, so she spends an hour or so putting together a Rube Goldberg Device
involving an air pump, a length of drainpipe, and a plastic flamingo
that will automatically fill both bowls when she steps on a foot pedal. After doing just that, she then returns to her lounging, satisfied that she accomplished her task the easy way.
But hang on.
Just getting up and filling the bowls by hand would've taken less than fifteen minutes and a lot less effort. When you put it in perspective she hardly did it the "easy" way.
You see a lot of this in fiction (and sometimes outside of it). In pursuit of a lazier way to do a task, a character will wind up spending magnitudes more time and effort developing and executing that lazier way than it would have taken to do it the normal way. This is often a trait of the Professional Slacker
A frequent variation (and method of communicating An Aesop
that 'laziness never pays off') is that the character's efforts to avoid work just end up causing them a whole heap of trouble, misery and and pain (physical and / or emotional) which could have been avoided entirely had they just sucked it up and done what they were supposed to do in the first place. For example, in constructing the Rube Goldberg Device
Alice might kickstart a chain of events which results in the kitchen flooding due to a busted tap, the bag of dog food exploding all over the house, a broken window, a plastic flamingo lodged into the wall
, Alice falling off a ladder in the chaos only to break her leg and her mother ending up very, very
angry with her.
Related to Short Cuts Make Long Delays
- Victor Tugelbend in Moving Pictures is the master of this trope (which the narrator acknowledges). Thanks to a trust fund from a relative supporting him while he's in school, he much prefers the life of a Wizarding School student vs an actual wizard, Victor studies extensively to keep his grade just low enough to not pass, but high enough that he doesn't lose his trust fund to failing grades. He also exercises regularly because being thin means less weight to drag around, and physical activity is less effort if you're in good shape. It's a kind of enlightened laziness.
- Wario is made of this trope. In fact, I think Nintendo Power commented on it once; I believe it was in a preview of Wario: Master Of Disguise...
- For Love of Digby involves trying to come up with a convoluted way for the main character, whose remote is broken, to change the channel in time for his umpteenth viewing of Digby the Biggest Dog in the World without ever leaving his recliner.
- The title character of Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island has this as her motivation for doing anything, as she hopes that by working hard, she will marry a rich man and be set for life, never having to work again.
- The Simpsons: Bart and Lisa have been tasked to clean the back yard but they're too lazy to do so.
Bart: Man, look at all this stuff... pull weeds, mow lawn, scoop and bag dog business. There's gotta be a way out of this. Lisa! Chop off my hands!
Lisa: No! Then who'd chop off my hands?
Bart: All right, you chop my hands halfway off, and then, I'll still have enough strength to chop-
Marge: Get to work!
- The Amazing World of Gumball: Richard is a master of this. Just watch this episode (the second one on the page).
- Teen Titans: Cyborg took Raven's suggestion of walking over to the TV for a tasteless joke.
- Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter's father finds the idea of walking over to the TV so horrible he doesn't have the courage to tell Dexter people used to do it before the remote control was invented.
- Phineas and Ferb: Candace would rather watch something boring than change channels without the remote control. And she would walk a similar distance to get popcorn. Then again, she doesn't play the trope straight as all she did about the remote control was waiting while her mother went to a shop to buy new batteries.
- In Dan Vs. "The Boss", Dan goes to great lengths to avoid doing any real work on his first day at the office and doesn't understand why he's so tired. Chris tells him that looking busy is usually harder than actually being busy, and suggests that maybe Dan should just do his job.
- Many TV viewers have torn their room apart looking for a missing TV remote control when they could just walk over to the TV and change the channel that way. Though, on a lot of newer TVs you can't really do that if you're watching anything but local broadcasts. Same goes for disc players without the buttons necessary to navigate the menus on a movie.
- A recurring story from many educators is the at-times ridiculous lengths that some students will go to in order to cheat their way through an assessment piece or to pass a test without doing the 'work', to the point where it would probably be both easier and less time consuming to just study properly and receive an honest grade for it.