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by Ken Carlson


                According to a recent study by the British Psychological Society, boredom can be good for you. This from the people who provided you recently with 24-hour weeklong coverage of someone elseís wedding. I almost forgot to show up for my own wedding, why do I have to watch theirs? 

                The study considered it a positive development when a child whined that he or she was bored. When asked to provide their own scientific evidence in rebuttal, parents everywhere responded, ďYeah, thatís what I need from my kids, more whining.Ē

                But the point made follows popular trends in parenting. Parents excel at giving advice and commands to their children that they rarely follow themselves. Itís not enough that a child read, he or she must read the right kind of book at the right level. Meanwhile parental reading habits over time have decimated to the point that many people who used to relax while curling up with a good book have found that too much work and would rather settle for reading the side of the prescription bottle for the meds to help them sleep in the same way, focusing on the litany of side effects.

ďChapter 2; may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrheaówell, those should cancel each other outódrowsiness, bleeding gums, protruding antlers, slight-to-moderate deathÖ Boy, what a page turner, I canít put it down. Literally, one of the side effects is lockjaw and I canít put it down.Ē

                On a regular basis I tell my children to put their cell phones down and find something else to do. Thereís a big, beautiful world out there, they donít have to stare at screens constantly. Read a book! Play with the dog! Topple an independent nation because you donít agree with their views and theyíre challenging your business interests! AnythingÖ

                Right, the British study on boredom. So, I decided to put this study to the test. I was in the midst of an intense writing session, when it was suggested that I go to the store for a few things sometime this week. I immediately ran for my car keys. Some might accuse me of blatant procrastination, not following the words of founding father Benjamin Franklin who said, Never leave for tomorrow what can be done today. Well look at what happened to him. Heís dead! Maybe if he hadnít been such a stickler and put that off for some other day heíd still be alive. 

                So I started a detailed investigation to the heart of science and knowledge, Shop Rite, the local good-enough grocery store. For an added element of excitement, I decided to tempt the goddess of danger, walk on the symbolic blade of a machete, dance on the razorís edge, trim my nose hair with a proverbial weed whacker, and entered the store without my cell phone. Thatís right, for this adventure I went shopping for bananas without a product from Apple.

                Can you remember the last time you didnít have your phone with you? We take them to work, where phones are already plentiful. We take them out on the town and complain when someone from work calls. Why did so-and-so have to call now? I don't know, why did you feel the need to answer?

                We take them when we exercise. We have them near when we sleep. We even take them with us to the bathroom, because thatís whatís you want in a room filled with germs and water, more electronics.

                I entered the store phoneless, completely cut off from society. How would someone reach me in an emergency? If I get hungry how could I possibly get any food, trapped in a grocery store. 

                I gathered my items methodically. The list of items Iíd been ordered to procure were written down by my wife on a piece of paper. Anytime there are three or more items it becomes a list. Thatís why I only have two children. If I had three I never would have remembered to bring the baby home from the hospital. 

                Once I made my selections I made my way to the register where a trained professional would help facilitate this transaction. I do not believe in self check out lines at grocery stores, itís evil robotics and automation run amok. When Iím sick, I donít conduct my own surgery. In preparing for intimate evenings I donít purchase tawdry inflatable figures that will be slightly retooled to become a lawn ornament during the holidays.

                Upon reaching said register, I made a serious miscalculation. I would actually have to stand in line and wait a bit to pay for my food without a phone to distract me. Does anyone remember what thatís even like any more? What am I supposed to do, be patient? Converse with strangers? Howís that going to work? Hi maíam. Nice melons. Your purchase, of course. Yes, naturally Iíll go with the police officer. 

                Waiting in line for groceries can be a nightmare wrought with peril. Will the people before you have coupons? Is there a special promotion, like Shop Riteís CanCan Sale, a mixture of sensual vaudevillian entertainment and waxed beans? Is it senior citizen day, with someone unearthing the ancient custom of actually paying by check. Will there be a price check required, when a managerís presence will be required, because our society must stop evolving in order to find out if Bounty paper towels are two for $4.99?

                What if the reading material isnít of sound quality? What if Iíve already read this monthís issue of The National Enquirer and Soap Opera Digest because their story lines are preferable to the mainstream news of the day? What if Iíve already looked over the items purchased by my fellow line mates imprisoned here in time and made my judgments? Wow, that family sure buys a lot of Sunny D Orange drink! When did Pop Tarts come in Confetti Cupcake flavor? Who buys one roll of Scott's toilet paper? What are they trying to do, quit?

                After what must have been a lifetime, I was released from my purgatorial confinement and freed on my own recognizance. I went home and found my kids just staring at their phones, wasting a perfectly good afternoon. I wondered how they got this horrible, sedentary habit, as I returned to my preferred way to spend a sunny afternoon, watching sports on TV.

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