I take a lot of public transit, which means that wherever I am*, I get to hear a lot of other people's conversations. This is excellent for a writer or masochist. Over the years, as an astute observer, I've learned not only to absorb, but to pose myself crucial questions about humanity ("When will humanity get its large butt out of my way so I can move my suitcase?"). You can't put a price on that kind of knowledge, although I guess if you were to ask me I'd say $29.99 sounds good. The only problem is, however much I learn, I never seem to be able to put it to any use. I've come to a conclusion about this: people are boring-ass. Yes, this is a problem, a deep and real one, on the order of world hunger, only more dire. This is why you never hear Miss America contestants saying they want to end world boringness. It makes them too emotionally overwraught. They can't handle the magnitude. I mean, could you? Therefore I'm posting here, for what it's worth, several recent examples of this rampant and very alarming problem, so that we and/or the March of Dimes may do something about it. At least it's more interesting than what I was just doing, namely reading Cosmo. I am never entirely comfortable with Cosmo, because it is always asking me things like my Sex I.Q. I don't totally understand what this means, but I assume a person with a high sex I.Q. reads Dostoyevsky during coitus, whereas a person with a low one, oh, I don't know, munches on beef jerky. I'm no expert in these matters, although I am not against outfitting your partner with a reading stand, if you think this would be a graceful option. Now, without further ado, a variety of representative instances of Terminally Boring Discourse that I've encountered in real life: - Example 1: As I typed these words on a morning Amtrak commute into Boston,** there were two 50-something ladies behind me, having an extremely long conversation about: American Girl dolls. STUDIO AUDIENCE: How long was it? It was so long that I had time to drink a whole thermos of coffee, and when I tuned back in, they were saying, "Now when she got her NEW doll, she wanted a BUNK bed, and..." As a side note, I once had the idea to create an American Girl from the Neanderthal era whose name would just be a grunt, spelled "Nguhhhh," complete with a series of feel-good stories with names like "Nguhhhh Saves the Day." This story would be about her saving her pet buffalo from velociraptors, or Ursula the Sea Witch. As of yet, I have seen no kickback from this. - Example 2: I do a lot of commuting with a big bag, which compels a lot of fellow travelers to observe to me - pay close attention here - that it is a big bag. The observations usually go something like this: FELLOW PASSENGER (helpfully as I struggle with the bag): That's a big bag. ME: Heh, heh. Yeah. FELLOW PASSENGER(helpfully as I continue to struggle with the bag): Yep, that sure is a big bag. Meanwhile I am attempting to lug the big bag down a train corridor the width of your standard bendy straw, which means I have little time for chit chat (so, tragically, we never make it to the conversational apogee of "Boy howdy"). Also, occasionally, there is my favorite variation: FELLOW PASSENGER: That's a big bag for a little girl! Regrettably, I do not keep a big flame thrower in the big bag. - Example 3: While I don't mean to devalue other people's accomplishments here, I have noticed that, with alarming frequency, the people you meet have children who do exactly what you do, only more important. Here is the aggregate version of a conversation I have had 85,679,420,122.2 times (the .2 time, I went to the bathroom): OTHER PERSON: So what do you do? YOU: I'm an actress. OTHER PERSON: Wowee! Really! You don't say! Brittnee and Zack are both into drama up at Vanna White Magnet School for the Performing Arts. Just like you. YOU: Buh. OTHER PERSON: Zack recently interpreted the role of "Flower #3" in A Midsummer Night's Dream Jr. Critic Gus Grandecrotte of the Coccyx Daily Tribune singled him out as 'luminous.' Of course, he said he was talking about the lighting design, but we're pretty sure that was code for Zack. YOU: Wug. OTHER PERSON: Anyway, now Zack has signed with the Gersh agency and has a 13-movie contract with Paramount, in addition to which he's slated to be the Face of Dior starting fall 2013. What did you say you do again? YOU: I'm going to take my life now.
Okay, I admit, acting is a bad example, thanks to the common perception that pretty much any random-bucket bonehead yahoo cretin Chick-fil-A CEO can do it and get hailed as Thespis reincarnated.*** This is of course extremely false, on the grounds that ... uh ... let's see here ... never mind, I have forgotten.
At any rate, this is just one more subspecies of Terminally Boring Discourse, which I cite not so much for its boringness as its lethalness, although it can't hold a candle to ...
- Example 4: The "Chewman" method of conversation, named for the popular dog toy which you grab and shake and ON PAIN OF DEATH DO NOT LET GO. To make matters worse, in this form of conversation you, the victim, are usually tag-teamed. Leading boringness researchers agree that your assailants are usually named Uncle Bud and Aunt Pam, and that the conversation must include a strict 55-repetition minimum of the phrase "OH yeah":
AUNT PAM: So our dermatologist's cousin's proctologist's realtor's proctologist got a new pool put in. YOU: Oh? UNCLE BUD: Yup. OH, yeah. Uh-huh. A new pool. One of those swimming pool-type pools that, y'know, you can swim in 'em. YOU: Huh. AUNT PAM: Yup, one of those pools, one of your swimming pools that you can go right out and swim in. You can go right out and swim in 'em, those pools. UNCLE BUD (introducing nuance): Big pool, too. She always wanted one of those big pools. YOU: Hm. AUNT PAM: OH yeah. Big, big pool. OH yeah. Nice pool. She always wanted one of those big pools. Got your concrete, got your chlorine, got your water. AUNT BUD: OH yeah. UNCLE PAM: Big pool, too. She always wanted one of those big pools. YOU: Whoa, Uncle Bud and Aunt Pam, sorry to interrupt, but it says here in the Daily Quotidian that tomorrow a great fiery roaring death comet will incinerate us all to crisps, obliterating all known life, at 8:00 (7:00 Central)! (Beat) AUNT PAM: She always wanted one of those big pools. UNCLE BUD: OH yeah.
And thus the legal question arises: am I within my constitutional rights to garrot these people? The answer is yes, but only under very strict circumstances, such as - and I quote from the Constitution here - "if you are having a sucky day." Also if they surpass the maximum limit of OH-yeahs.
Of course there are always more peaceful, even creative ways to deal with this same frustration. For example, you could entertain yourself by persuading Aunt Bud and Uncle Pam to continue their conversation to the tune of "Born to Hand Jive" from the toe-tapping musical comedy Grease. It'll be amusing, for one thing, plus the song has a whole lot of OH-yeahs in it. Here is an excerpt:
OH yeah, yeah, yeah - everybody!
It's a big pool, baby, It's a big pool, baby - yeah!
How big is the pool? How big is the pool? How big is the pool? How big is the pool?
Bigger, bigger, bigger and bigger Now can you chewman, baby? 'Cause it's a big pool, baby Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah It's a big pool, oh yeah!
Yeah! It's toe-tapping! Who's with me on this? ...
(Sound of crickets chirping)
... Okay, never mind. I take it there's no room for innovation here. I guess boring persons and the rest of us will just have to coexist exactly the way we always have. But let's agree on one thing, you and I: if you get to regale me with tales of a foreclosure in Escondido, installing that nice new chestnut wood-paneling in your TV room, or your colonoscopy, it is only fair that I, in return, should get to relate a minimum of 25 anecdotes from figure skating competitions I watched in 2009, or, worse, the clothes I'm thinking of putting up on eBay.****
Just always know, from the bottom of your heart, that no matter who you are, or what your conversational habits may be - somewhere, to some special someone, we are all boring.*****
* Generally, at any given time, here. ** Motto: "Taunting your sorry commuter hiney with nonsensical use of the words 'Inbound' and 'Outbound' for our own amusement since 1905"
*** Vanna White. **** In the interest of full disclosure, I actually do bother my mom with this one, as if it is interesting or something. ***** Except for me.