A short while ago, I awoke from uneasy dreams to find myself transformed into a
I didn't realize the full extent of my affliction, however, until later that
day, as I drove up a hilly street with my friend Penny. "Sometimes I ride my
bike up this hill," I informed her, "and I get tired." Even as the words came
limping out of my mouth, I knew that this was possibly the dullest thing I'd
ever said, but I had already gained a terrible -- albeit sluggish -- momentum.
"When I get here," I continued, "I'm really tired." Penny mm-hmmed. "When I get
here," I added, "I'm really tired." There was a moment of
silence. "But when I'm going downhill . . . "
And it only got worse as the day wore on. By midafternoon I'd become so dull
that Penny seemed to be struggling not only to stay awake, but to maintain
control of her bowels. It didn't help that we were driving up to New Hampshire,
a trip that provided hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to regale her
with spectacularly boring comments. "Ex-girlfriend's sister used to live
there," I said as we drove past Portsmouth. And then: "This is a long road."
(Yep.) "I'm always surprised at how, you know, how long it is."
And so it continued for the rest of the journey. "Look," I would say, "a
The problem with being a bore is that it is a self-perpetuating condition.
You'll be halfway through a monologue about vine-grown tomatoes and it'll hit
you: this is the dullest conversation since Michael Dukakis explained to his
wife Kitty why he forgot to buy bread. As soon as you realize this, you'll
begin to panic. Your voice will take on a jittery, cringy edge. At this point,
you could be talking about the time you found Madonna in your bedroom with a
pair of your underpants on her head, and it wouldn't matter. You are already
branded with a scarlet B.
Occasionally, you'll attempt to mitigate your Dukakisness by saying something
dazzlingly controversial -- which in your case means something toe-curlingly
inappropriate. (Never, by the way, confide in a bore; in a moment of listless
desperation, he will let your secret slip: "I was on a bus this morning and it
took 45 minutes to get to Kennedy Plaza. . . . Er, did
you hear Joe has gonorrhea?") The only decent thing to do now is to clam up
Many people mistakenly equate shyness with dullness. Though there are plenty of
boring shy people, the two conditions are by no means interchangeable. Indeed,
most of us would rather face a thousand wallflowers than a single blatherer. A
shy person you can work around. The blatherer, though, is a conversational
black hole -- you'll be talking to someone about, say, a mutual friend's ugly
divorce when suddenly you'll find yourself being sucked into a tale about
Pookie, the blatherer's dog: "And then he stood up on his back
legs and I'd swear he was trying to speak to
me . . . "
The majority of bores don't realize how boring they are. They mistake loudness
for humor ("YAAH!"), verbosity for eloquence ("The protagonist's fate was
resolved sans denouement"), incomprehensibility for depth ("There's a mean man
in the moon, man"), cliché for wisdom ("Takes all kinds"), the iteration
of facts for analysis ("There are three branches of government"). And then
there's the worst of the lot: the bore who mistakes long-windedness for
intrigue, whose stories are the verbal equivalent of an Escher painting: tales
without beginning, middle, or end.
It takes a special kind of bore, though, to make others be boring back. That's
the kind of bore I've become. I was in a bar recently, trying to chitchat with
a barmaid. "Where do you live?" I asked. "Kingston," she replied. "Oh," I said,
"how did you get here?" Unless she had sailed a pontoon across the harbor in a
hurricane, it was a question that could only elicit an equally crappy answer --
which is what it did: "Car."
But maybe there's hope for me yet. When Penny and I got up to New Hampshire, we
sat out on the porch and reviewed all the dull things I'd said that day: "This
is a long road" -- ha -- "This is a nice town" -- ha ha -- "This is a good
song" -- ha ha ha. By the time we got to the "I get tired" bit, there
was beer shooting out of my nose. Our laughter must have been audible all the
way across Squam Lake, which is a fairly large lake -- not enormous, but fairly
large, as lakes go.
Chris Wright can be reached at email@example.com.
Issue Date: October 5 - 11, 2001