Thursday, 17 December 2015

Drilling a Yawning Hole

With the approach of Christmas comes the annual ritual of office Christmas lunches. Up at the local shops, the season is in full swing. Each day, from about midday onwards, troupes of middle ranking public servants trail into the pub or the restaurant up there, displaying the same wild excitement shown by dairy cattle entering the milking parlour. Once inside, they arrange themselves with the thrilled anticipation of people choosing seats in a doctor's waiting room.

I glance through the windows on my way to the post office, and it all comes back to me, that terrible creeping misery as it dawns on you that for the next hour - at the very minimum - you are going to be trapped at a table with nothing to do but play with your cutlery or the salt cellar, (some bright spark has even deprived you of the distraction of reading the menu, by bulk-ordering the set Christmas special 3-course meal), surrounded by people who appear to have determined quite early on in life that small talk is the realm of the devil and proper, intense talk about the meaning of life is even more outrageously wicked, while wit is the eighth deadly sin

Which is where they are so wrong - the eighth deadly sin is being unable to tolerate boredom, and on this count I am an irredeemable failure. I always promise myself that my eyes won't glaze over when the minutiae of the childhood and family background of my interlocutor's plumber or removal man are relayed to me, in slow, painful detail, or when the full, blow-by-blow description of the course of a family pet's gum disease is recounted, complete with the unedited edition of the remarks made at the time by the vet in charge of its treatment. I resolve over and again to keep my head still, instead of tossing it about like a demented racehorse, eyes darting round in search of an exit from its stall, as the complexities of someone's second cousin's father's mobile telephone contract are explained or the advantages of shopping at Aldi are outlined, (with lengthy mention of the spectacular value represented by the catalogue specials, available on a weekly basis, apparently).  

Boredom. Terrible, suffocating, maddening, unbearable boredom. How you react to boredom is the true test of whether you are a good person. 

I am not a good person.

Or - and this amazing thought has only just struck me - could it be possible that I am viewing things from the wrong end of the barrel? Is there any faint chance that I have had completely the wrong perspective all along?

What if it is not the person subjected to boredom who is at fault but the people who are doing the boring? Are they actually the truly wicked souls among us, and not intolerant swine like me and my ilk?

If the answer is yes, then perhaps I even have the right to take a leaf out of the bible and abandon all restraint and smite them? Oh please, tell me that it is my righteous duty. Oh please, oh please, do, please, let it be so.


  1. It seems to me that some definitions of "acedia", usually given in English as "sloth", do cover willful boredom. On that view, we would not need to go on to an eighth deadly sin. I suppose that one could consider the need to tell acquaintances of one's dog's treatment for gingivitis as a special case of pride, in which case you could consider them deadly sinners as well as deadly bores. However, I am no reliable guide to theology or casuistry.

    Calvin Coolidge thought that he could stop the most energetic talker by simply sitting still and make no response by word or expression. You could try that, but Coolidge had two advantages most of us lack: the prestige of his office; the condition that most of those talking to him wanted something he could give or withhold.

    1. There are two problems with the Coolidge method:
      1) For a top class bore, silence is just the gift of empty air into which more words can be poured;
      2) it requires the practitioner to be very bad mannered. If you smiled while remaining silent it might be feasible, but it might also be taken as encouragement, so that would be no good.
      The only guaranteed solution is to leave full time work forever so as to avoid office social events

  2. I can forgive the bore if they show a corresponding interest in the minutiae of my life, but I'm still waiting for that to happen. So far, I've only met people whose self-obsession is matched by an astounding lack of curiosity about the lives of others. There is no 'only connect' for them.

    However, I find that if I ask these people very probing questions, they either rise to the challenge and become more interesting, or they quickly move on.

    1. The phrase " very probing questions" covers all sorts of mind boggling possibilities. I think a person cannot really be defined as a bore if they show a corresponding interest - rather than just a prying desire to gather information to use against you later (me? paranoid?), of course