Enjoy the Boredom
It wasn’t terribly long ago that I regarded a Saturday trek to Lowe’s or Home Depot a fate befitting a war criminal—certainly not something to which I, then a true exemplar of the petulant and lazy teen archetype, should be subjected. I’ve committed the particulars to memory: I’d awake sometime around 10 a.m., thanklessly wolf down whatever breakfast my mom or dad had made an hour earlier, and cut on the PlayStation; shortly thereafter, my dad would pop in to let me know that we’d be departing for Lowe’s or Home Depot—or, frighteningly, both venues if the first place didn’t have the specific item he needed—within an hour (the matter was rarely up for discussion); I’d huff in protest before dressing myself, loading up into his truck, and sulking for 45 minutes while he drove to the closest store.
We’d arrive sometime around noon to a parking lot that resembled a warzone, an armada of weekend contractors popping in to grab additional resources absent from their jobsites, visibly frustrated DIYers, small moms whipping around in impossibly large SUVs, and other dads accompanied by their aloof children. Once inside, I’d either tail my dad and offer one-word responses to his questions about paint swatches or whatever in an effort to streamline the proceedings or, if my siblings were dragged along, split up and “explore” the store, a fraught exercise that invariably ended with us sitting on the riding lawnmowers on display for an hour.
This was all standard operating procedure, save for the instances where my parents altered the formula with promises of pizza or minigolf or new stuff if we managed to hold it together for a few hours. At the time, I hated those trips and resented my dad for dragging me along. I’m, like, 15, just let me stay home and play video games. It’s my weekend. You didn’t even need me for this trip, you could’ve just gone yourself. This is stupid. Fortunately, the crystal-clear lens of hindsight later revealed that, duh, I was a selfish moron for ever harboring those feelings of resentment, but it also taught me some other, less immediately apparent lessons. For one, I gained a greater appreciation of modern technology. Doom-scrolling Twitter on my phone or playing “Breath of the Wild” on my Switch would have dramatically changed my outlook about those Lowe’s trips. I also recognized the inherent utility of big box home improvement stores in helping people like my dad achieve self-actualization. Here I was believing that a toilet was essentially a decorative cover for a hole in the floor where my family and I dumped into a pipe, when in reality the whole apparatus is astoundingly complex, with myriad screws, knobs, and tubes working in concert to traverse solid and liquid waste to the realm below. There are entire aisles at these stores stocked wall-to-wall with toilet stuff, and that doesn’t include the actual commodes or plumbing equipment. If the toilet at home broke, I figured the only remedy involved replacing the entire unit. It never once dawned on me that any regular person could replace a single part for, like, $7 and have a working toilet the same day.
But most importantly, I came to understand that the frustration I felt over those trips wasn’t any kind of reflection about my feelings about my dad—it was born entirely of my inability to cope with boredom. This was largely self-inflicted, of course. I didn’t have to be bored; I could have very easily shown a genuine interest in the task at hand, asked questions about toilet functionality, etc. Still, I was crippled by the prospect of spending any amount of time in my own head, reckoning with my insecurities, or “wasting” what I perceived to be a finite quantity of my free time.
But that time wasn’t wasted. Far from it. See, I realized how much I cherished those trips to Lowe’s with my dad, and how fondly I look back upon them. (Gonna digress for a brief moment to clarify that my dad is very much alive, because this was all starting to sound a bit in-memoriam-y; sorry for any confusion about all that). The happiest memories are the experiences you share with friends and family, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the moment. Years from now when my life begins to slip away, I’ll think back to the time I spent with my dad running errands and doing projects around the house, or going to Sam’s Club with my mom to stock up on bulk goods for my soccer league’s concession stand, or “helping” my wife compile our baby registry at Target—you know, all the times where I was “bored.” I’ll then die happy and pass on to an afterlife where I’ll spend eternity providing enthusiastic feedback on whatever paint swatches my loved ones hold up.