You clicked, sir?

Corporate job addicts hire "mylackeys" to attend to those daily, human-like activities they no longer have time for.

MYLACKEY.COM  IS A NEW INTERNET SERVICE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON, D.C., PORTLAND, AND SEATTLE, THE CITY THAT TURNED teeth-grinding coffee consumption into a way of life. Corporate job addicts hire "mylackeys" to attend to those daily, human-like activities they no longer have time for. Mylackeys submit to virtually any duty: from picking up dry cleaning or waiting in line for concert tickets or drivers' licenses to massaging shoulders and clipping toenails.

Apparently our high-tech economy has modernized us right into Victorian England, when perhaps a third of the working population was engaged in domestic servitude. The "upstairs, downstairs" deal was considered a good gig at the time. It sure beat starving to death or working in one of England's industrial meatgrinders, but the long-term effects of such a bitterly bifurcated social order are still being played out in the petty class warfare that warps British society to this day.

Though this e-service's name intends a suitably post-modern, self-referential irony, the real irony about is not its trademark but the likelihood that the people truly degraded by the lifestyle it projects are not its employees—they may only be humiliated by the services they're called on to perform—but those time-bereft executives ordering all the in-house pedicures, dry-cleaning runs, line-sitting, or dog walking. After all, who is more exploited: the well-paid household ombudsman or the no-doubt overcompensated executive whose life is so immersed in work that he doesn't have 20 minutes free to wash his own clothes, walk his own dog, or, let's face it, raise his own kids? Is that final duty one that any reasonable person would willingly surrender to an Internet service?

Probably not. Raising children is at the core of whatever it is that makes us human. But, incrementally, so are all the other little chores that go into negotiating life in a modern society. We don't hunt and gather anymore, so modern Homo sapiens don't enjoy great team-building exercises like beating off a saber-tooth tiger attack. But we do have to rely on the kindness of strangers each day as we get our kids to school, buy our groceries, or pick up the dry cleaning.

It is in those small, regular person-to-person interactions and negotiations that we hear what's happening in our neighborhoods, meet other people, have our stereotypes and conceits exposed and extinguished. In short, that's where community—and life—happens to us.

The answer to the problem of being too busy to do your own laundry is not to click on someone lower on the economic order to do it for you. The best way to resolve the dilemma of time versus work may be to reappraise the work you are doing. When all other aspects of your life have to be subordinated to the requisites of employment, what's putting your life out of balance is not the day-to-day chores you're missing but the unreasonable demands of your job.

The church teaches that work is part of what makes us human, an opportunity to participate in creation and enhance the human dignity of ourselves and the people we work with. In 1981's Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II writes: "[Work] is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy, it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that . . . expresses [human] dignity and increases it."

Work can enhance human dignity when it offers opportunities to create in relationship with others. It can degrade human dignity when it instrumentalizes others, treats them as mere tools of personal cares or whims, or encourages us to confuse work with life. Work is therefore important, but it is a part of life, not the purpose of life.

Our stressed-out lifestyles would not be possible without a little personal collaboration with the forces that time-oppress us. We can just say no to the continuing encroachment of work life on real life. It is no coincidence that's most enthusiastic clients are Seattle corporations. Execs there dole out gift certificates of mylackey services to especially hard-working employees—a bonus that "rewards" by extending their exile in cubicle land.

That is one bonus worth leaving at the office.

Kevin Clarke is the managing editor of online products at Claretian Publications in Chicago.

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