An un-unique tale of boredom in the age of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS COV-2, etc., etc., applause, applause, applause.
It isn’t every day you get the chance to revel in absolute boredom. The eighth deadly sin, oh luxury of luxuries in our busy-praising world; boredom is the new gold. That is unless of course you are unemployed. Or, worse yet, being payed a pretty penny to stay home, stay safe, and stay out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about living in a welfare state, I’m actually very glad of it, especially in times like this where staying at home is all one can do to fight global catastrophe. Not a bad trade at all. But boredom, boredom takes its toll no matter what. Death, taxes (thank goodness for taxes), and boredom.
Only a few months into patiently waiting a pandemic out and now boredom has become a way of life. I’m tormented by this first-world pleasure but not tormented enough to find pleasure in it. I’m not sick of myself, nor pleased with me — I’m not something, I’m not nothing. I’m just sitting in my pastoral meadow recliner, draped in a page-yellowing poetic bathrobe, through days of the week – the uniform of the artist’s wilted ennui. I don’t even move enough to produce a trickle down the sleuth of sweet and sour sweat sauce. If only I could stink myself into the shame of showering! How did I get here? How did this deadly sharp overachieving shit load of potential become this shapeless blob, acute curled cat hair-clad and all? This was supposed to be productive time after all, a great opportunity to gladiator-accomplish every last task that needed lacerating off the immortal hydrarrian to-do list.
“In five minutes you will reach your daily screen time limit for games, entertainment and social media.” From my stone tableaux, I mechanically raise my thumb to stamp my device’s curt reminder.
“Turn off limit for today, or extend by 15 minutes?”
(Extend by 15 minutes)
(Extend by 15 more minutes)
(Extend by 15 more minutes again)
(Turn off limit for today only)
Defeated by my own tablet. Don’t worry, I can stop whenever I like, I’m the consumer, I’m in control. I’m not like those greasy fur-ruffled teenagers. Nor am I the pamphlet printed and air-dropped stereotype of the aging plastic-rimmed millennials six feet under blue light that my birthday might suggest. No, no, I’m closer to Gen Z when you think about it… like all my generation, I refuse to accept the “M” word as title. This is the shrink-wrapped set of cliché lies, pitiful excuses, and worn rhetoric I’ve stuck to as steadfast talking points in perpetual defence of my outdated hipster identity.
On public programming, the radio tells me that boredom is a relatively new phenomenon. We are so hardwired to survive, so barely-making-it day-to-day alive, so struggling-to-stay-on-this-planet that we never had the opportunity to be brilliantly lightbulb-staring bored for most of human existence. Even as recently as in medieval writing there were no mentions of boredom as anything but blasphemy. It’s as if this flaccid supine serpent never occurred to anyone until living past 60 stopped being considered a sip from the holy grail.
Having run out of fiddly thumb twiddling fix-it-up things to do, and cartography-necessitating home decor stuff to create a mess over; it’s now podcast time, today’s topic (again), automation in the age of Coronavirus: timesaver or terror? To recap: naturally the poor will be the first victims as they always are, then, after having had a thorough belly laugh at their suffering, the rest of us will suffer the exact same fate but enjoy a much more gradual cushier landing as we fall. Eventually, my unqualified Gen-X hosts tell conspiratorially me via my phone app that we will have completely forgotten about survival. The end result, good old fashioned boredom will have mutated into the ultimate unmountable beast. This burdensome beast, still-blood-soaked wet creature of our loins, will be one of which the best we can hope for from, will be getting plugged in and entertained day in and day out. Not so bad I think to myself, like The Matrix, like in Black Mirror, like China, the U.S., and up next, the whole monetized, money-rolling bed of a fucking world… hooray. “Really, not so bad when you think about the alternatives” my hosts’ quasi-qualified guest pipes in. “THINK about it” they tell the already plugged-in masses. And I think; I think; isn’t that the alternative? Not so bad.
This is an oasis-lapping luxury, right? I know I’m supposed to be enjoying this, reviling in having the blessed open field new country very recently cultural-genocide-colonized nothing to relax in. Surely someone as busy as me, always avoiding and canceling plans for work’s sake, surely someone too busy to maintain friendships in any healthy BMI kind of way, too busy to have hobbies, too busy to make love, surely I would enjoy having this gift! But like every overdrive-dregs-burning thing I do, I can only inhabit this gift of blood-earned free time in the absolute of serotonin’s addicting extreme. Lucky for me, I’m not alone. Social media offers such lovely self-imposed collective public surveillance, and is an easy source of cat-cuddling loose-hair-before-summer affirmation. I mine the data to support my position without thought of the rivers and fish and oil weighed ducks I might poison along the way in this open strip I’m about to peel.
“Leeann just checked in at La Pocha: Mexican restaurant and grill” – curb-side pickup in gloves to home and back to being alone!
A photo of dinner for one, no sign of so much as a second glass or even napkin at the other end of the table. Beautiful food, Leeann is taking care of herself, she’s got a me day (another one) and is enjoying her boredom. But I know better, I know Leeann, she can’t cook, she’s also addicted to her work and, even from home, doesn’t get payed enough for it. She doesn’t even like Mexican food, she just happens to live around the corner and knows La Pocha plates their food photogenically so she doesn’t have to fuss with anything after she’s disinfected and unwrapped the plastic skins keeping the restaurant industry alive. Boredom is her date tonight for one, but well disguised; well done Leeann.
“Jeremy is feeling #Blessed”
The hastily edited video shakes to life thanks to our nagging mutual friend, autoplay. Shouting that can’t be heard; we’re all muted for convenience and addiction’s benefit. Friends jump out from behind furniture on every screen in the house, and there are plenty. His very new fiancé in tears is beaming a smile directly at the camera. 257 likes, “welcome to the club, friends” I comment and add like number 258, but not fast enough, it’s already number 259 by the time I click down on the send symbol with my trackpad. Boredom averted, Jeremy… for the next year of tireless paper-crinkling wedding planning, prenup writing, and possibly mutual separation at the last second at least; all good things normalize given enough time.
“Jenn is looking for recommendations near you: Hey friendos, anyone know a good dry cleaning place? Just pulled out my spring jacket and totally forgot about this nasty stain from last year! Whoopsie!“
It’s May and we’re all in quarantine, Jenn with two N’s. I know you drive, I know you don’t exactly go out much, no one does anymore, and I know your new standing desk is supposed to stand in for your daily exercise right now. But come on, we’ve had bloom breezing windy wet weather since the end of March, and I know you don’t own another spring jacket, is this really the first time you’re heading outside? I answer my own question with hard candy disappointment, of course it is. It’s easier to just forget outside is out there.
Welcome to the underground garage to underground parkade lifestyle! Why live downtown when you can have a super-sized house (sans backyard), hour-long bumper to bumper commute, and in winter as an added bonus, even the arriving underground in darkness and leaving in darkness experience! Jenn does something that involves spreadsheets and data or something for a healthy salary. Whatever it is, I’ve never heard her explain it in a way anyone around understood. Solid work Jenn, you’ve found the other alternative to acknowledging boredom in our isolated age, tedium.
Not surprisingly, it’s dark outside now. Screen time always flies by faster than the regular stuff, and good windy weather only ever amplifies the sap-in-hair stickiness of the effect. What a waste is all I can think, what a total waste of a day, how nerd-locking-herself-in-a-locker-for-lunch unproductive, how plane, how… boring. I’m supposed to be using this paper bow-wrapped gift to recover from a pretty bad case of burnout. Apparently this is a real near the edge of Sartre’s cliff-serious medical thingy. I was always under the impression it was a kind of myth meant to scare little overachievers into tempering our drive so as to become more palatable by the time we grow up. I’m starting to second guess that wisdom now, or at least my therapist tells me to; who am I to argue with the good Doctor Trish over end-to-end encrypted video call sessions when she’s the one giving me drugs?
Right now, I’m supposed to be making the ponderosa seedling, second chance to crack open after the fire best of things. I’m supposed to be taking it inch-by-inch towards sunlight easy until the world goes back to normal. I’m supposed to be doing whatever it is I do for fun, in the confines of my own home. I’ve been thinking all day about that phoney list I came up with in my last session, bing such a well-practiced liar has made me an expert at winning therapy!
– Reading (this one’s not quite a lie, I’ve always loved reading, the problem is I have a tendency to get caught up in a book and use it as an excuse not to eat, or sleep, and to avoid other people).
– Photography (the only problem there is that, even though I love the craft of it, because I do it for work I tend to turn everything photography into another work project. True, doing things like playing with expired film and the like are fun, but hand-processing film takes time, lots and lots of time).
– Virtual board game café (I’m just a really sore loser, and bad at games, and also a very boastful winner in the odd instance I’m good at a game… this is bad enough with friends, but with total strangers over the internet, I have a habit of being threatened with violence).
I think I’ll stick with the drugs for now. Yes, I’m still living out of my house coat for days on end, yes, I’m still rotten rabid-stolen vegging on the height of human technological achievement, and yes, I’m still very very very bored… but this way I get to enjoy it. Isn’t that what’s on the latest slot machine endless feed dopamine-slurping trend? We all love a little prescription paradise, why not just sit in it, why keep trying to deer-run with such short stamina from it? Tomorrow I’ll be doing the same as today, and the dry hide stretched un-oiled day after, and the one after that. I wonder how I got here? I wonder if it’s all my fault, pandemic, technological dread, and all? I wonder if I’m just a product of my generation? I wonder and wonder in the endless liminal deadly solar winds of space that golden boredom and I share in unnatural survival-free solidarity. And I’ll keep it up until one day I decide I’m cured, or immune, or a vaccine gets introduced. And then I’ll return to ample in-person employment, soon to become over-work and with a little luck, right back to burnout. Hallelujah, the cycle continues!