Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boredom, Boredom

Kids today never have to be bored. What a strange feeling. From what I remember, boredom was an essential part of growing up and taught so much. It taught you to look around you for something to do, to make up lies or invent things to annoy siblings or parents to pass the time. Sort of what I do here, only utlizing the internet. Boredom also taught you how to shut down, to be in a space physically while taking a little nap mentally. This tactic would save my life many times, from soul-deadening jobs to death treks through bead stores.

As a kid I couldn't imagine being able to watch a movie in the back seat of the car while on vacation. Or being able to play a videogame while trudging through the grocery store. Smarter people would insert a sentence here about how these kids are using someone else's imagination and ideas instead developing their own, but I mentally checked out of that last paragraph like two sentences ago.

My parents were like the Wonder Twins of boredom. On their own they frequented some pretty dull places, but together they could form an unstoppable force - the antique store. The thing that killed me about antique stores is there was always a chance of seeing something cool there - swords or old stuffed bear heads or Nazi helmets or ancient artifacts looted from cursed tombs - but it always ended up being me walking through rickety hallways full of glassware and furniture.

Still, antique stores at least gave the illuson of adventure. This was not the case in fabric stores. I have no idea why a big chunk of my childhood seemed to be spent in these horrible places. I don't remember my mom making her own clothes or anything, but man, were they terrible. About the only way to amuse yourself was to look through the big books of Halloween costumes.

"Hmmm...that kid's a tiger. That looks cool."

"That girl looks pretty happy running around dressed like a witch. I think we've actually passed like 3 Halloweens since we got in here."

Since growing up and having to spend more time in fabric stores (I got married) I've noticed something. They always put them in strip malls far, far away from anything remotely cool. There's no saying, "OK Honey, I'll drop you off. Come get me at the fireworks and puppy store next door when you're ready." Nope, they're always next to a discounted bread warehouse or a Food Lion or something.

Sometimes when my Mom got tired of making me walk through fabric stores, it would be my dad's turn. My dad's tactic was a little better, only because his stop had the promise of adventure. Have you ever had to go to a car show as a kid?

"Oh boy! Car show! That sounds awesome! How many cars can we race?"

"You can't drive them. In fact, you can't even touch them. Don't even breathe on them."

"Well, is there anything cool there, like the Batmobile? A car that shoots missles?"

"Nope. There's gonna be nothing like that at all."

Then I'd end up walking around a field for hours, watching the car guys (always guys with white mustaches and baseball caps) glare at me for even thinking of doing anything fun with their cars.

I'd like to say that being bored taught me something, that I gained a rich inner fantasy life, but most of that inner fantasy life I stole from TV. It did teach me the shutdown technique, which has been handy for decades, but if I could go back in time, I would pack a smartphone or portable DVD player in a second. I mean, amusing yourself looking at Halloween costumes kind of loses its charm after hour 3 in the fabric store.

1 comment:

Keith said...

Ugh. The Cherry House. A furniture store out in the middle of nowhere. My mom could spend hours in that place, looking at cherrywood furniture. There was no escape.

Other childhood hells of boredom: Bacons -- a department store WITHOUT A TOY SECTION -- and The Middletown General Store -- where you'd be promised toys and candy, but the toys were those carved wooden trucks on strings, and the candy was licorice and horehound. The only thing worse than no candy and toys is cruel country hippie versions of candy and toys.