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I have already started practising my small talk for Christmas. “Good, thanks. You?” I keep saying into a mirror, fully aware that in the past eight months I have more or less completely lost the ability to make conversation with humans. “What did I do with the time? Wow, the year has gone so quickly, hasn’t it?”
At this point I pause meaningfully because I know I have about two minutes of material to stretch over a five-day festive period with fewer people than usual, so I really need to make it last. “Let’s see, umm … got really into jigsaws for a bit. Rearranged the spare room into an office. Learned to make this one really good curry recipe from the BBC website. Uh … got 11 solo wins and about 24 duo wins on Fortnite.” Is that good?, they’ll ask, and I’ll have to admit that no, not particularly. “It’s a game for 12-year-olds that I play compulsively,” I’ll explain. “Every day I log in and let adolescents embarrass me in an online world that allows them to dance joyously on the remains of my corpse.” Oh, they’ll say. I think there’s something – I think there’s something happening in the other room. I really ought to…
I think it’s important to address the fact that I am bored. I am, to my bones, bored of this. I know that in the current climate, being bored is a high luxury, but it doesn’t make it any more thrilling. In fact, I am so deep into boredom that I have burrowed beneath the previously accepted boundaries of the concept, and have now emerged, apathetically, into post-boredom.
I never thought this would happen: if you had offered me, at the start of the year, the chance to sit inside for eight months chain-watching Netflix and not really going out or doing anything, and told me that being glued to my sofa would be reframed from a “sign of a life falling apart” to something I was doing “for the moral good of the country and the world as a whole”, I would have bitten your hand off for it.
I excel in inactivity. A squalid little part of me always imagined that I’d thrive in the ambient boredom of prison – not the gangs part of prison, or the crapping in a room with someone watching you part, or the shanking someone for some cigarette bit, or getting a pool cue cracked over me, but I really think I’d get some good letter-writing done. Lockdown has offered all the perks of prison (time) and none of the cons (prison), and yet what have I done with it? Watched part, but somehow still not all, of The Sopranos. That’s not really good enough.
This boredom is dangerous, because I’m not the only one experiencing it. Humans can only live in fear for so long, and I think, for a lot of us, being high-key scared of coronavirus wore off some time around June. Second lockdown has been a poor impersonation of the first one – no clapping, no supermarket queues, no Houseparty, The Undoing – but we wore through our boredom reserves and gnawed at the core of the human condition.
Though I think it’s psychologically ungreat for the biggest health threat of my lifetime to be reduced to a background hum of danger, an unseen force that just makes me swerve people in the corridors of my block of flats as I go downstairs for the post and not much else, it’s possibly even worse that we’ve worn boredom down to the bone. If we’ve worked through fear, and worked our way through boredom, what, really, is there left? Speaking only for myself – someone who mildly considered buying prescription orange-tinted glasses this week just to feel something – the answer can only be “chaos”.
Christmas is coming, and once that is done we might well be facing a threat of Lockdown 3.0. A third lockdown in the most miserable month of the year won’t be difficult for those of us who have adapted to the beige rigours of not really doing very much – stay indoors, pick yet another box set, even if the prospect of yet another minute-and-a-half-long opening sequence fills you with dread.
But, beyond that, it’s hard to know where the bored-of-boredom will end. We’re all tiptoeing around the idea that “normal” doesn’t exist any more, and whatever tattered social landscape greets us once this entire pandemic is lifted will be practically unrecognisable (and far, far worse) than what we were used to in the old days. But what will we do in a post-boredom economy? What will we do when traditional acts of rest and relaxation inspire juddering flashbacks to lockdown? It’s hard to know what anything in the world will look like come 2021, but I’m certain that boredom will look different to us for the rest of our natural lives.
• Joel Golby is a writer for the Guardian and Vice, and the author of Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid has shown me what lies beyond boredom: post-boredom | Coronavirus