Eli left for work at seven yesterday and didn’t return until six-thirty last night. Sophie came home from a weekend away yesterday, popped out of bed this morning, her birthday, and drove off to educate a gaggle of kids in animal science. Susan, excused from attending work in-person, trades off remote work and managing our household, covering for a spouse who can’t leave the house and is avoiding the public spaces in our home—this particular job is twenty-four-seven. I sit on our screened porch, butt planted comfortably on a cushioned loveseat, feet propped up on a wooden bench, drinking coffee, laptop in my lap, goldbricking.

Goldbricking: Do you know this term? I learned it from the TV show M*A*S*H. Does anyone under fifty even know about M*A*S*H? It first aired when I was ten. Each week, my older brothers and I taped the episode on our (audio-only) tape recorder. We then laid around the family room relistening to each episode, trying to recount the action, milking the maximum enjoyment from the show. “I think this is when the helicopter landed in the field!” In every other episode, Major Burns would accuse an enlisted man, usually Corporal Klinger, of goldbricking.

From Wikipedia: Goldbricking is the practice of doing less work than one is able to, while maintaining the appearance of working. The term originates from the confidence trick of applying a gold coating to a brick of worthless metal—while the worker may appear industrious on the surface, in reality they are less valuable.

This term originated in the 1850s, and I would have considered it archaic, but I just read it recently regained popularity as a term for employees cyberslacking—appearing hard at work, but really watching YouTube videos.

In my first work-at-home experience, 2005 – 2006, I set up a functional office in a basement bedroom and continued my Washington, DC position of Vice President of Finance and Development. That fancy job title meant that I performed the accounting, budgeting and proposal editing for a fifteen-person technology company. I was remarkably productive. At eight, I’d clump down the basement stairs and stare at my flatscreen monitor all day with a brief break for lunch. Susan headed up an environmental education company—coincidentally the same one Sophie’s working for today—and the kids went off to daycare in a local church.

One Saturday, I told four-year-old Sophie to turn off the TV and find something else to do. “How come? You watch TV all day every day in the basement!” Clearly, she could see into the future. Cyberslacking (or goldbricking) costs U.S. businesses and governmental agencies billions (trillions?)* per year.

Every now and then, I enjoy a sick day from work. A nasty cold, a raspy, throaty cough. No one wants me at work. I read, I write, I watch a movie, drink tea and coffee and usually knock out a few chores. My Covid isolation feels different. First, I’m barely sick. I felt worse than this last week a few hours after I finished up an eighty-minute run—mildly achy, a little sniffly, the trace of a headache. I’m not even taking Tylenol.

But I’m also banished. “How about I empty the dishwasher?”

“No, I don’t want you touching the clean dishes.”

“Fold laundry?”


“Clean the Bathroom?”

I’m not even allowed to use the bathroom except the one in my bedroom.

“How about you just relax and get well?”

Sigh. This is boring for sure, and I guess it continues several more days, but so far, our strategy is working. My goldbricking is keeping me healthy and sequestering myself away from everyone else is keeping my family healthy. If no one else gets sick, I’m going to call this week a success.

* Sorry, I couldn’t get a reliable figure on the cost of cyberslacking. The most referenced studies were from 2002 and 2005—$85 billion and $178 billion respectively.

Photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

27 thoughts on “Goldbricking

  1. It’s kinda how I felt after I was released from hospital. I honestly felt better right after they gave me the blood.

    Daughter wouldn’t let me do anything. It kinda drove me crazy cuz there was stuff that needed to be done.

    M*A*S*H is a family favorite. Both of my kiddos love it too. I don’t remember the term “goldbricking” and I haven’t heard or read it before this post (that I can recall anyway🤪), so thank you for teaching me a new word.

    Are you still testing positive? Isn’t the 5 days just a guideline? I would think if you tested negative twice, your family would be safe and you could quit goldbricking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I don’t know about retesting. I was using the protocol that Sophie had to use at school. Mandatory 5 days and then need two negatives to be considered well (after the five days). I wound up needing to run a lengthy errand in the car today and found that I didn’t feel so great when I was up and moving around. Maybe a little more goldbricking is called for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, M*A*S*H. How odd reading this. Just yesterday I was thinking about some of my favourite episodes. Love your childhood audio-only replays; I had over a dozen 3 hr VHS tapes with 7 or 8 episodes on each. Great stuff.

    (Hope the rest does the trick)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck Jeff hope no one else gets sick. I’m doing my own case of goldbricking right now. I’m sure it will all come out when I can get it all written.


  4. Jeff, I am so glad to know that you and your family are well. And I am loving this word “goldbricking.” This is new to me; thank you for the gift!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everything about the word is so yesteryear, especially that someone could be fooled by a mostly worthless hunk of metal. It seems like it would be better applied to something less valuable than advertised, as opposed to labor. Curious, is MASH something you grew up with? Sometimes I wonder when things fall out of mainstream. For instance, my kids watched Gilligan’s Island but I doubt they’ve even heard of MASH.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gosh, I hope you are feeling better soon! Love the term – I hadn’t heard it before although I have watched a lot of MASH in my day. My Dad would watch it whenever he could when I was a kid. I may have heard the term but just ignored it since I didn’t know what it meant then. Anyway, hope you are feeling better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m feeling almost fine. Susan and I just did a brisk 2.5 mile walk and I didn’t really have trouble. I watched an episode of mash last night because a couple people mentioned it and I was shocked by how bad the acting was. Especially klinger.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad you’re not too poorly with the Covid germs, Jeff, and also that the rest of your family haven’t caught it. Hopefully, as you’re being so careful, they won’t. I remember MASH, too. It was a great programme. They ought to bring it back and do a rerun. I’m sure it would be very popular; if not, for the youngsters, definitely us mums and dads and others of our age. My father never liked the programme, so we were banished to the tiny TV in the kitchen to watch it while my father watched cricket or some other sport.

    I love the term goldbricking. I’ve learnt a new word today. I like to try and learn a new word every day, not that I always remember what they mean! I’m not sure I do much goldbricking myself. I don’t seem to have time to do what I’m supposed to be doing, let alone just look like I’m working. I think you’ve got a valid excuse for participating in a little of that under the circumstances.

    I hope you continue to get better and that your family manage to escape it. With a bit of luck, you’ll soon have two negative results and can return to being with your family again.


  7. I loved MASH. My husband and I used to watch the reruns. I don’t remember the term goldbricking.
    I’m probably in the minority here–but I always had a soft spot for Major WInchester.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MASH has been on my mind for the past few days (I even watched an episode). I can see being a fan of Charles. I think if I watched the show regularly, I would be put off by Hawkeye’s immaturity and Charles would come off well.

      Liked by 1 person

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