If my brother or I complained that we were bored as children, my mother went off on a tear. “You aren’t bored. You are boring. Look around you. You have every possible way to entertain yourselves from dozens of toys to the great outdoors.” (Or something like that.) Her point was that being bored is a choice and a luxury.
So, I put Barbie in a Keds shoebox with GI Joe (my brother’s toy) and sometimes Johnny West (but never the three of them together) and watched what happened. Amazingly, Barbie gave birth to a giant baby who was four years old, a Chatty Cathy with black hair who looked like me.
Mom, I sure wish I could talk to you today about real boredom. I think you may have met your match with this Solitary Confinement. I suspect if you were alive today, I would find you asleep in your recliner with a copy of Ideals magazine across your lap.
Today when I was reading the directions on how to make twice-baked potatoes, I rejoiced at the end. Why? Because the recipe said, “use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.” In my head, I heard myself saying, “Wow! I get to use my meat thermometer.” Now, doesn’t that just most pathetically scream “BORED?”
All last week I made lists of possible skits for Saturday Night Live. (Yes, I live in this little fantasy world where I write for SNL.) Saturday night the show was on semi-live. I’d be danged if they didn’t do a skit on Zoom meetings, which was one of my ideas. (Likely one of those ideas that floats out in the ether.)
I never used Zoom until about two weeks ago, and now it’s a daily thing. I organized a group (and we’ll meet again) of writers I know. That meeting could have been a skit. I was worried about my hair. #Iamsosuperficial
Six other screens popped up. Two of the women, around my age, were wearing headbands. Headbands, another icon of my childhood. As an adult, I believe the only good reason to wear a headband is to hold your hair back when vomiting. Several women had “in-between” hair, meaning they are in between The Salon and Looking Like Me (totally white-headed). (Honestly, it didn’t matter. Hearing their voices and seeing their smiles mattered.)
Lorne Michaels still has not called me, though I had two other ideas for SNL. Kate McKinnon plays Dr. Debbie Birx of the Co-vid 19 Task Force and does strange things with scarves. Let your mind wander. Debbie Birx? Dressed entirely in a flag scarf? How about Debbie Birx up a flagpole flapping in the breeze? Debbie Birx as semaphore? I picture her on the HMS Britannia, which we visited. (I’ve been spending much of my fantasy life on past vacations.)
The final concept for SNL was just stupid and a product of too much time on my hands. A friend mentioned she was making masks out of those airplane sleep things you get in business class (or so I’ve heard since I’m always in the cheap seats.) In this sketch, people make masks out of the sleep masks, except they are wearing them in a grocery store over their eyes as they would on a plane. They knock over stacks of giant boxes of Post Bran Flakes or Kellogg’s Special K. Okay, so it wasn’t that funny. I guess you had to be there. Would it be funnier if it were stacks of Mega-Roll Toilet Paper made from Afghani Bamboo (which is something I ordered on Amazon and will be here in six weeks)?
I am bored. My mind wanders. I am supposed to be writing a book about the history of my family farm. About two-thirds of it is written. Curiously, I stopped at 1918 when researching the Great Influenza pandemic wasn’t that fun anymore.
But I find ways to fill my time, often riddled with bad judgment. Is it a good idea to cut one’s hair with fingernail scissors at 1:30 a.m. in a semi-dark bathroom, when not wearing your glasses or oxygen? Probably not. At least I can blame the hypoxia. And it will give my friends something to look at during our next Zoom call. (Which may not happen since I insulted most of them earlier in this piece.)
I will likely be fine because I’m able to shelter in place. Here comes the serious part. Not everybody will be fine. There are two Americas, the America, my family and I live, in which we are retired or can work at home and don’t want for much (except toilet paper.)
Even adrift in my sea of privilege, I recognize and support the other America. The one in which people who often don’t have paid sick leave care for our family members in senior facilities, deliver our packages without protective equipment, work in American food production from growing and selling to delivery. Even when I can’t go out, I can tip well, support organizations and people who need my help, reach out to friends, and help society by staying at home.
I hear my mom’s voice. “Those essential workers are not bored. They have to work, and they also have worries you do not have.”
Except for the idea that I would become a morning person, Mom was almost always right.