I know I’m not the only person who enjoyed practice back in 2020. That was when pet owners were being seen curbside, and vet medical teams were powering through appointments with pit crew-level efficiency. Seeing pets that way was, for us veterinarians, extremely convenient. It allowed us to stay in one spot, do our work without distraction, and focus on clear communication in bite-sized chunks. Many of the minor frictions that come with navigating the pet + owner experience were removed.
I also suspect that I am not the only one who recognized that there was a price being paid for this convenience.
By removing the pet owner (and all the inefficiencies that come with them), it felt like I was losing something important. The longer we went curbside, the more convinced of this loss I became.
It’s not unreasonable to want a happier, more convenient, less irritating life. In fact, society seems fixated on helping to make that happen. We now have the ability to stream movies or TV on our phones, wireless headphones to summon music, podcasts or audiobooks at a moment’s notice, and texting and messaging apps to save us from awkwardness on the phones. Tired of traffic? Grab an Uber! Worried about missing the game? Stream it on your watch!
As I look around my living room right now, my dog is chewing his bone while I type on my laptop. Each of my children stare, completely immersed in their cell phones. No one is bored here. No one is inconvenienced by the behaviors of other family members. No one is doing anything other than what they want to do at this moment.
That’s wonderful… isn’t it? I’m not so convinced.
My Doubts About Convenience
It’s so easy to remove the frictions of life, and in the moment it feels great. It’s awesome to not be bored. It’s great to be able to duck away when things quiet down in the clinic for a moment. It’s nice to get work done while my kids are entertained.
That quiet time in the treatment room absolutely could be used for emails, or it could be used for just standing around and talking with the team. Getting the email done feels like the priority. However, in the long term, not spending time simply being present with my techs and fellow doctors would have negative consequences.
That’s often how this goes. Taking the easy and convenient path in the short term sets us up for loneliness and shallow connections in the long term.
Inconvenience Can Become A Doorway
No, we shouldn’t swear off the little things that make us happy. There’s nothing wrong with watching the show you love, listening to a podcast while you drive, or scrolling social media on your break. We do run into a problem, however, if we do them so regularly and quickly that we never see the opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know (or who we love and care deeply about). At some point, inconvenience is the doorway to connection.
Working with clients while treating their pets is how we build relationships. Advertisements on the radio are our impetus to turn the volume down and talk to our friend. Turning off social media on our breaks and just asking a co-worker what they did over the weekend is a step toward building trust.
Maybe we should start getting a bit more tolerant of irritation, boredom and inefficiency. Maybe taking the path that’s immediately fast and easy doesn’t get us where we want to in the long term. Maybe it’s good to be just uncomfortable enough that we make time for the mundane acts that build connection and a rich life.