Are You Bored?
I’d finished swimming and was sitting in the sauna. There was another man in there, up on the top shelf, while I was on the bottom. Some guy with muscles looked through the glass door at us for a moment before coming in. He went up on the top shelf also.
‘I wanted to see who was in here before I came in,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you can tell if people are going to talk or not.’
‘Do you want to talk?’ the first man asked.
‘Yes, I don’t just want to sit here in silence.’
‘You can talk to me if you like.’
‘There should be a television in here, something to stop people being bored.’
‘But some people don’t want to talk, they like being quiet. Maybe they want to meditate.’
‘Yeah. I think so.’
‘Do you want to meditate?’
‘No. But I don’t mind being quiet. I can be quiet or I can talk. I don’t mind.’
‘But you like talking, yeah?’
‘Because it stops you being bored.’
‘What about you, mate?’ He leaned over to grab my attention.
‘I wouldn’t be here if there was a television,’ I said.
‘No, I’d want a full refund.’
‘I don’t know how you stand it,’ he said. ‘I’m bored out of my skull.’
It struck me later, after he’d gone, that he might be on some kind of medication. I really have very little insight into boredom. My mind seems to be firing on several cylinders at once. I’m thinking about whatever I’m working on, or a book I’ve read, or a film I saw last week or a film I’m going to see tomorrow. I’m thinking about my kids, my friends, the political situation. I can hold these thoughts at bay if necessary, put them to one side and hone in on practical or theoretical problems, like baking bread, mending a puncture in my bike’s tyre, or sorting out which activities are regarded as sacraments.
Or I can do none of those things and try to empty my mind completely. For shorter or longer periods I can make it all still. At least relatively so.
But I don’t get bored. Ever.
Is it just me? What’s the split like? How many people get bored?