Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bored Of Directors

Allegedly, boredom is good for you - some sort of mental palate cleanser to help folks keep on their track of splitting atoms and designing wearable birdcages - but long stretches of it makes me want to put my head in the oven. Granted, my oven is electric, so it would just be me, mushing my face against the cheese stalagmites from a decade's worth of pizza prep, but at least it would be something to do.

I usually love being bored. I mean, "love" is kind of a strong word - but I sometimes sort of relish boredom. Tonight, I was at work, doling out an epic lean on the bar. I had served three customers and had already scrubbed the whole damned place from top to bottom. That restaurant is clean, yo. And as I was leaning, watching uninterested people bypass the heavy Italian food we serve in favour of menus that include exotic ingredients like vegetables, my mind was wandering. Thinking about if I should invest in more comic books and if so, which ones; how I'm going to decorate my new room in the fall; and what I would say if I ran into my ex-boyfriend (the fantasy usually involves me being much taller and leggier, while he's gone completely bald, developed a hunchback and has basically morphed into Richard III. In reality, what I usually say is "Guh," with a blush that makes me look like I'm having a coronary); how I can incorporate plants into my new room without having to water them; whether or not my head is too small for my body; and various places I'd like to make out with someone.

There's no rhyme or reason to a good boredom session. It's usually forced upon you, stranding you with nothing to do while you wait for the good people of Service Ontario to take your health card picture. Or at work, waiting for the customers, the orders, the system to come back online, or the photocopier to stop barfing toner all over the floor. These are moments devoid of tasks, so your brain stops paying attention to what it should be doing. Instead, your mind tells itself breathless little stories about things you might conceivably do one day, and for a split second, you've convinced yourself that you're the next Mags Atwood. Then your neurons snap back into place and you resume the nit-picky but tedious job of arranging the clip-art on the biweekly company updates. Atwood remains safe as the queen of Canlit and one of my personal enemies.

But boredom, day in and day out, is a major mental drain. I like the occasional boredom jag because usually my job, and life, is interesting enough that a little bit of dazed staring is a mini-vacation, not a permanent mode of existence.

Waitressing is considered "unskilled labour" in a lot of job markets, but I would love to see the government official who described it like that handling a full section on a busy night when everyone wants separate checks, the kitchen staff has gone nuclear, and the dishwasher is sobbing. Unskilled, my ass. It's fast. But it's also tedious. Serving tables has the same basic to-do list each time a new customer is seated - which works - but it's also relatively easy to forget yourself in the sheer physicality of hauling hot food to people and wiping up condensation rings on the table. It's challenging, but serving tables doesn't exactly hot-wire the creative, problem-solving side of your brain. It is, in a nutshell, boring.

While I wouldn't return to the dreary reading lists of my university life, I'm craving a job that asks me to make thoughts. I'm not interested in mindless file-'n'-fax office jobs, or any job that requires a script, be it telemarketing or just starting every interaction with, "Can I start you folks off with a drink?" That kind of boredom is not good. That's when people start dressing their pets up like food products and experimenting with hallucinogenics on the clock.

Our minds are supposed to wander. It's good for us, it allows creativity to flow and outside-the-box thinking to happen. I applaud boredom, daydreaming, imaginary conversations, sexual fantasies, planning outfits, reminiscing, reconstructions, and reimaginings. If bored, I can easily amuse myself by thinking about the last person I kissed (or the first - hi Jordan!), the pros and cons of terrariums as a solution to the waterless plants I so desire, and how much my feet hurt in my stupid Payless shoes.

But too much boredom just pins you against the wall. Too much boredom and I start worrying about things, silly things, things that, in the context of my insanely bored mind, start looming and growing horns and teeth and generally freaking me right the fuck out. Thoughts about food and haircuts start taking over the easily annexed parts of my brain. My bored brain is like Poland in 1939. I like a little boredom, the same way I like a little dairy. Too much of either and I start sweating and feeling nauseous. So I need a balance. Folks are loathe to admit that boredom is necessary for us. Setting our brainpans on screensaver mode while we wait for the doctor to see us is a great thing. I like daydreaming, letting my mind wander and then come back to the task at hand. As, I suspect, do most people.

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