The Carefree Lives Of Slackers

Ah, those lazy days of summer. Back in June, it seemed they would never end. Well, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is sorry to point out that Labor Day's right around the corner. Time to get back to work, but not for everyone.

Jen Raynes and her sister, Kelli Williams, have loaded up their van, so they can drive the California coast and look for the tastiest waves.

"I haven't had a real job for 14 years," Raynes says.

Only after surfing do Raynes and Williams worry about earning a living, which they're trying to combine with, what else, surfing. Jen paints surfboards and surfers, and Kelli photographs them.

"Now some of the jobs I've had have caused more stress in my life than not having money," Williams says. "So I'd almost rather not have money and—and enjoy myself than to have money and not like where I am or what I'm doing."

"There are many days like that that I get up and I say, 'I'm gonna still surf for an hour and then I'll come back and work,'" Raynes says. "Uh-uh. It's like four o'clock and I'm finally comin' home and I think, 'You are a slacker.'"

Jen and Kelli actually come from a long and honorable — or dishonorable, depending on your point of view — tradition. Two hundred-fifty years ago, Samuel Johnson wrote, "Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler."

Tom Lutz hasn't been idle. He's just written "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America."

"Before the Industrial Revolution, it was very clear to everybody that work was to be avoided at all costs," Lutz says.

He got the idea when his son Cody graduated from high school and spent a fair amount of time on the couch. Cody did nothing but lie there watching TV, and it drove his dad nuts.

"I would come up from my study and I would end up — I'd show up in that doorway completely surprised to find him there, and that's when the anger would come up," Lutz says.

So several years ago Tom Lutz started looking into slacking, tracing it back hundreds of years. He found even Benjamin Franklin — the "Early to bed, early to rise" guy — could be a bit of a slacker.

"He was also a lifelong fan of the air bath," Lutz says of Franklin. "You take off all your clothes, you lie in your bed, you open your windows, and you just let the air waft over you — that's the air bath. He thought this was the royal road to health."

Lutz found a long literary slacking tradition. From Henry David Thoreau hanging around the pond, to Herman Melville, whose main character in "Bartleby the Scrivener" said he would "prefer not to" do his job to the beat writers and Jack Kerouac, who in "The Dharma Bums" said "I practice do-nothing."
  • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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