Boredom Made Boring

Copyright 2006 Ben S. Pollock

I dreamed I was in a conversation with a few younger people from the office, none of them the real people in my real office. I was saying to them something (in reality) that I have said many times over the years (and they listened, proving it a dream):

“I couldn’t handle the boredom. It was the worst kind of boredom, where you wait for someone to return your call, and deadline’s looming just close enough where you can’t start a new story.”

A wiseacre pipes up: “So why did you return to reporting?” (The speaker in the dream did use past tense.)

With no hesitation: “In the 20 years since I last reported, I learned there were many kinds of boredom.”

I have? I’m awake now and realize, yes. “And I’ve learned a bit on how to handle most of them.”

What are the forms of boredom?

• The boredom of waiting, which has two subsets:

• Waiting for the known, the case in my dream: some mayor to phone me back. At some point the wait becomes moot as the story gets written regardless, or shelved for the moment.

• Waiting for the unknown, like sitting in a doctor’s office. One unknown is how long you’ll have to sit, which is unpleasant enough. The other unknown is what the doctor will say or do to you. We like to call that boredom, dread.

• Likely expectation, which is the boredom of, say, having nearly the same lunch every darned day.

• That entertainment has become predictable is a form of monotony. Either the TV writers (or mystery novelists et cetera) have gotten worse or simply by the passing of years you have become wiser. If you’ve seen Columbo, you can predict Monk, and those are two Continue reading

Goodwill Gesture

The incoming president of the Christian Coalition has agreed to withdraw. The Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church in Longland, Fla., according to news reports, wanted to expand aims of the political-evangelical group to include matters such as poverty and the environment, but the coalition prefers to stay focused on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

I saw this news last week online but the reliability of the Internet source was just so-so. Here, now, is a link to The Associated Press, and a registration-free one originally from The New York Times.

The election early this month provides several lessons to public officials and organizations. The lessons truly are unclear. They overlap and contradict: It’s all local? Voters truly think global? Out of Iraq now? Give the Democrats another try? Single-issue campaigning works? Voters really are smarter than appealing to narrow issues? The list can continue, but I think all of these and other explanations altogether are right. You go to the poll with what is important to you.

Whatever these reasons seem to be, the Christian Coalition seems to acting independently of all of them. -30-

This is a busk

No hounding of the buskervilles. We have a word for it: busking. It’s the practice of a musician (maybe a duet or trio) performing on a street corner, with a hat or open instrument case right there, for tips. Towns trying to encourage tourism often encourage busking, until shopkeepers get annoyed. Above my standup desk in the Poet’s Corner here at Shady Hill is a souvenir metal “No Busking” sign from the London Underground museum gift shop. Parts of some subway stations are off-limits to the artists, you see.

Brick is a busk. It could be similar to the rant of a bloke at the famous Speakers Corner of London’s Hyde Park. Most people see blogs in this way: A fervent fellow standing on a box explaining his view on things for any who stop by, while he is stationed simultaneously obscurely but in the middle of a metropolis.

I see many blogs this way, and I skirt around them when poking around the ether. But a number of these online journals are explorations of the medium, and experments in effectiveness of expression. So is the shabbily dressed saxophonist standing near a row of bars, blowing a lonely improvisation howling through the night air.

Brick is a busk. No tip jar is set up at this point. These posts are not orations, but riffs. -30-

You, you, you

"That is sooo infantile."

That is something said to a non-infant. It may be descriptive, but the purpose is to shame the person into not doing what is being labeled infantile again.

As a shaming device, it works. OK, it does not work on me precisely, but it slows me down. Is the act infantile? No, but if I adjust it, then it’s also clever and I again can justify my act or my utterance. Great pun, eh? Had you, huh?

"That is so adolescent." "That is so juvenile." "Sophomoric." All mean the same as infantile, intended to have the same impact, though they describe an entirely different age group.

The school marms among us, though, would say they all are the same age group: more sophisticated pranks or intentions but arising from the same faux Freudian ego urge.

Baby. "So immature."

So be it. -30-

You Don’t Say

Two people on Thursday asked me the same question, not just topic but exact words. If I had a more public job — not a computer-glazed copy editor — or had more friends with whom I had more frequent contact, getting the same question twice in one day might be less surprising. This was odd.

So, Ben, what was the reaction in the newsroom to Tuesday’s election results?”

Friend one, male 30s, was in the morning, basically at home in Fayetteville. Friend two, 40 or so years older than him, was at her home, 30 miles away in Bella Vista, in the afternoon. [Down, Paranoia, down boy; no way do they know each other and planned the attack. Heel; good dog.] I said:

There was no reaction. We went around doing our jobs into the night Tuesday and again Wednesday.”

Their responses were the same, dramatic but quiet surprise, their raised eyebrows begging elaboration. That they seemed to accept. What answer did they expect? Do they think newsrooms have better water cooler conversations? Do they believe the newsroom sets built in TV studios are really like that? Do they believe the press indeed are all liberals and filled that cooler with champagne? [A related essay] My elaboration:

I have been in newsrooms on election nights a long time, November 1980 was my first one, when Reagan won. In this respect they’ve all been the same: There is no roundtable. We’re all working and we’re all tired. What conversation exists is over the numbers so far and precincts reporting, and why such-and-such results aren’t in yet. The Wednesday after also has a sameness: Everyone acts hung over. We’re joking just enough to get along, but the night people foresee another hard evening because the Thursday paper will be more complex with further data, reversals and comments, and the day people simply were up past their bedtimes.

“Nothing?”

“OK, Wednesday afternoon, somebody wondered aloud if Donald Rumsfeld had quit as secretary of defense two weeks earlier, would the GOP have picked up any more seats and would it have been enough to keep their majority.”

Yes, that was me, who spoke. Another editor grunted that was a good question. None answered the rhetorical question to convey opinion. And we went back to our comma correcting. -30-