I have a friend who’s always very busy. So busy that we rarely see each other. But I know that she’s very busy because when we talk on the phone and I ask “How are you?” she always says the same thing: “Busy. Very busy.”

She is one of the Busy People. Busy people work very long hours and have important meetings, conferences, trips and appointments to attend to. She belongs to that breed of Busy People — fortunately a minority — who love to tell you how busy they are.

I, on the other hand, am one...

I have a friend who’s always very busy. So busy that we rarely see each other. But I know that she’s very busy because when we talk on the phone and I ask “How are you?” she always says the same thing: “Busy. Very busy.”

She is one of the Busy People. Busy people work very long hours and have important meetings, conferences, trips and appointments to attend to. She belongs to that breed of Busy People — fortunately a minority — who love to tell you how busy they are.

I, on the other hand, am one of the Lazy People. We hardly work at all. We don’t have meetings or conference calls; we have long lunches and short naps. The only important meeting we ever take is with our oral hygienist or therapist. And we love to tell people how lazy and indolent we are, boasting about the novels we’re not writing, the screenplays we’ve abandoned.

Here’s my question: when the Busy People talk about how busy they’ve been, are they really saying to us lazy people: you need to get your act together, work harder, be more concerned with that pathetic moribund thing you call your career? I think they are. And worse still: I think they’re right.

When confronted by the success and wealth of busy people, we lazy people ask: ah, but are they happy? Actually, they’re too busy to bother with questions like am I happy or fulfilled? For them the examined life is not worth living; only the busy life is.

Successful busy people over fifty don’t work hard just to make money; my busy friend is wealthy enough to quit working. No, it’s a status thing. They’ve turned Thorstein Veblen’s classic study The Theory of the Leisure Class on its head; in place of conspicuous consumption — and the display of leisure — the busy-rich prefer conspicuous productivity.

My busy friend and I used to have long boozy lunches in Soho; now we have short “catch-up” lunches in Soho. Busy People prefer the catch-up lunch with old friends because it’s quick to do. Our lunches usually last for only thirty-five minutes because she has to dash back to the office or dash off to a meeting or simply “must dash.”

You might think that the last thing Busy People would want to talk about when having lunch is how busy at work they are. But no. They love to talk about the “exhaustion” and “stress” they suffer as a result of being so busy.

When I say to my busy friend, “if being so busy is so stressful and so exhausting, why not try being less busy?” she, like all Busy People, always ignores me when I say this, because they’re busy looking at their phone or thinking about something they must do back at the office.

We lazy people look at our phones all the time too — but we wish someone would text or ring offering us work, lunch or love. Busy People look at their phone and say, “Sorry, but I have to take this” — even before it rings.

London used to be full of the Lazy People. Only Americans were super-busy and proud of it. Things have gotten so busy for the British that a recent opinion poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed believed that life is busier now than in the 1980s — that most work-driven of all postwar decades.

My busy friend is busy even when she’s not being busy with work. Her social life is a busy round of parties, book launches, first nights, dinners, art openings, charity functions etc. “Is that fun?” I ask. “No. It’s exhausting!” she says.

We Lazy People are a bit hypocritical about Busy People. We stay at their big houses in France and drink the Champagne their busy industriousness has made possible and say snarky things behind their back. Fortunately, they’re too busy to notice.

I confess: I wish I were one of the Busy People and that I had important things to do, people to meet, places to go. The world needs busy people to keep turning — and someone has to pick up the tab.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s April 2022 World edition.