25 August, 2011

Boredom

Boredom is a pervasive problem for much of America’s youth. Sure, there are wars and shit, but that’s all going on somewhere else. Did you know that we had an earthquake two days ago? Boy, was THAT news. Thankfully twitter was there to report on the situation a full 17 minutes before other “news” outlets broke the story. The first I read online about the earthquake came from twitterer @Reefa_LeGrand  with “Sorry for the earthquake yall... I dropped my wallet! #MyBad  lol.”  Hard-hitting news, indeed. Thanks, Twitter!  

The word “boredom” was first recorded in a Charles Dicken’s novel in 1852. Now there's a guy that knew about boredom. First of all, he lived in 1800s Britain. And then he worked as a child laborer pasting labels onto shoe polish. ‘Nuff said.

But back to boredom. Boredom is an affliction most notably carried by the American teenager who has been coddled all of their lives: they have had food on the table, a roof over their heads, decent medical and dental care, and all technology to keep them entertained up the wazoo. I was one of those teenagers. And now, with the passage of time, I am one of those adults.

We have grown up being told that boredom is bad, very very bad indeed. “Idle hands are the devils playground,” say our Puritanical friends. “Go outside and do something!” said my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Goodrich, when I just wanted to sit inside at recess. And then there are the lyrics that haunt me to this very day: the song is “Flagpole Sittah” by the band Harvey Danger. The lyrics go, “…but if you’re bored then you’re boring.” Dear God, no one wants to be boring! And I always try to take advice from bands who got their name from a phrase graffitied onto the side of a building. They know what's up.

In my short time playing around in this age called “adulthood,” I’ve gone through some ups and some downs. There was that time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or myself. There was that long time when I was 60 dollars too rich for food stamps (damn you, third job!). But it’s funny. After the basic needs are met (food, clothing, etc.), and before one settles down to create miniature replicas of oneself to feed and clothe, one finds oneself with an unnatural amount of free time.

I think it's important to state here that: I am not complaining. I just wonder what other normal adults do with their time. And, because I’ve been been wondering this question for some time, I've observed some rituals  I'd like to share with you. The vast majority of adults that I interact with on a regular basis seem one of three things: attend trivia night, discuss politics, or drink. All of which are usually accompanied by more drinking.

Trivia matches around Boston are wildly popular. There are so many things to love about trivia! For one, with the exception of the drink you have to buy to avoid getting the stink-eye from the waitress who was hoping for a 6-person dinner party, trivia nights are free. Then there’s the fact that you can finally put all those bad song lyrics and pop culture facial recognition skills to work for you, since they are so woefully underutilized in your daily desk life. Lastly, there are the prizes. In regular life, you would never go out of your way to purchase a yellow muscle tee with the logo for the fifth Fast and the Furious movie emblazoned in glitter puffy paint across the chest. But on a Tuesday evening, surrounded by other fully-formed adult-like persons getting slowly drunk off a drink that splices two seemingly unrelated words together (i.e., "Bostonjitos") while thematically appopriate 80's music wafts in from the background, that muscle tee embodies everything you could ever want from life, and more. And don't forget about the already opened copy of the soundtrack to Ashton Kutcher’s movie “No Strings Attached?” It has Leona Lewis on it!! And, before you know it, you (I) are (am) hooked on trivia.

Politics is another pastime that many people seem to engage in as a past-time. In a magical world where everyone is an open-minded and rationale citizen, engaging in political discourse over drinks will lead to the those involved walking away with a renewed sense of their own beliefs that have been enlightened and improved because of that night's exchange. But in the real world, you end up arguing the ideological beliefs of a party that you don’t actually vote for, on a Friday evening after you’ve had one too many "Bostonjitos." and the conversation ends with everyone involved slurring the phrase, “I know, but listen,” at each other about forty times before someone jumps in with a, “It’s just what I believe!” Ninety percent of the time, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind in events like this, because you lack the specific facts, figures, full names, and sometimes even the very talking points of the issues you’re trying to argue. And yet, week after week, I see people enter into this dangerous game with Fox News and Daily Show clips at the ready on their smart phones.

The most popular adult activity is drinking, which is sometimes (but not always) done in the presence of other people. You ever think about the fact that we spend so much time at our jobs longing for the second the minute hand strikes 5pm, only to have a whole mess of us immediately seek out the very thing that makes time pass more quickly and memories float to the background of our consciousnesses? I do. You’d think people would want to remember those free moments and stay sober more, but no. Humans are weird. 

The best part about drinking- besides the fact that it is SUPER FUN!!!?!- is that you can combine it with almost every other adult activity. There's Trivia nights and drinking, discussing politics and drinking, Monday night football and drinking, taxes and demure glasses of wine, being awkward in bars while holding bud lights, dealing with a bad boss by sneaking a little something special into your coffee mug, watching your kid’s sporting activity behind a beer cozy, playing a sporting activity yourself in between sips of the Rockies, recouping after you injure yourself because you were drinking whilst engaging in a sporting activity with a cold one, watching other people lead their lives on reality television by playing a drinking game based off specific catch phrases... the list goes on and on and on. Drinking is so darn accommodating!

But that’s the problem with people my age, a 90-year old version of myself would say to today’s version of me, if time travel and/or dark magic did exist. The conversation would take place on an old wooden porch with a creaky rocking chair, and there would be a stern look in 90-year-old-me’s eyes as she’d say “You drink, you idle away your time with nonsense engagements. You can do anything, and yet you choose to do nothing!” And then she’d spit, for ninety-year-old-me is a straight shooter. I also imagine her having a Russian accent, which I have yet to acquire but have high hopes to do in the future. 

There is a lesson here somewhere. Puritans would say it’s time to put those idle hands to good work. Jimmy Buffet would say it’s five o’clock somewhere. I say maybe it’s time for me to get a real hobby. Something that doesn't involve drinking on a Saturday afternoon. Or rewards me for knowing the lyrics to "Never Gonna Give You Up." Something that 90-year-old-me would enjoy from her porch.