Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Boredom

A national survey of high school dropouts reveals the main reason they left school. “They were bored.”

The educated response to that, of course, is, “Waaaaaaaaa!”

Boredom is inescapable. Get used to it. The goal one ought to have is to become well-paid for boredom, not to escape it. In the professional world there are staff meetings, after-lunch lectures on the latest quality program, award ceremonies, reading government reports . . . Boring! So is cooking French fries.

The lout who chooses to be bored in American History would do well to go sit on a tractor and plow a field eight hours a day for three weeks. This would not make American History more interesting. I know how dreary it gets listening to the football coach babble about . . . “the Panic of 1857, an economic dip touched off by a ship full of gold sinking and by the failure of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, a major financial force that collapsed following massive embezzlement. James Buchanan was then president. He was a bachelor, so his niece was “first lady.” Quiz on Friday. Extra credit if you come to the game.”

What one ought to learn from this is that coaching football is a boring job. Sure, you have that high-adrenalin moment on Friday night when your team gets behind by six points, and with ten seconds left, Frankie McDonald runs eighty yards before he spikes the ball on the two-yard line as time runs out. But then this same coach has to go teach history class all week to lethargic teenagers pining for their video games. He cares as much about the Panic of 1857 as you do. It’s boring. But does he drop out? No! He gets fired for not beating arch rival Bumpkin High.

About plowing. (Plowing is to ploughing as donuts are to doughnuts. This may help you on the SAT test.) Why does one willingly do something so boring as to plow a field? And believe me, plowing is boring. Most of the time. When I was about fifteen I was plowing the south forty near the hives from which the beekeeper had recently pinched the honey. The bees were having their Panic of 1857, and it was clear what stage of the grieving process they were experiencing. Every time I neared the hives, the bees sent sorties out to let me know that they were not in the mood for more visitors.

When one plows, one does not take whimsical detours to avoid enraged insects. So each time I neared the south part of the field I encountered several disgruntled bees. At these moments a passerby would have surmised that I was conducting one of Beethoven’s symphonies. “Possibly the Fifth . . . or maybe something by Rossini,” the passerby would have thought before encountering the bees himself and diving into the protective waters of the irrigation ditch.

In the late sixties it was popular to have long hair. I don’t know why. It was groovy. People of my generation now secretly wish that most of our high school pictures could be destroyed. Still, there is one comfort. At least we don’t look as though we’ve dived face-first into a tackle box like these idiotic kids today. But I digress.

This particular bee came in from about ten o’clock and somehow became entangled in the hair on my forehead. People in the Sixties were known for spasmodic self expression on the dance floor, but this was nothing to my performance on the tractor. To no avail. The bee stung me just above my eyebrow. As I turned the tractor toward home I became aware of severe itching all over my body. I brushed this off as a minor irritation. After all, what’s a little itching when your eyes are swelling shut and you’re driving full throttle next to a barbed wire fence.

Life in the farmhouse can be a little boring at times. There is laundry to do, bread to bake, the garden to weed, butter to churn, and your hysterical son with his eyes swollen shut suddenly bursting in the door imploring you to take him to the doctor. The Panic of 1857? It was nothing.

My father plowed the next day. He had short hair. But the following day I was back on the tractor. The question remains open, “Why does one willingly do something so boring as to plow a field?” It’s so your father will have enough money to send you to college.

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  4. I am a teacher- a high school English teacher. I could not agree more. Anything worth doing is a struggle. These kids who say they are bored are often not bored, they cannot access the lessons. Tey say board because they don't have the langauge to dive deeper into the problem.

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