The passenger’s boredom

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If one is to ask another to define boredom, 95 of 100 answers will cite waiting, traveling as a passenger in a vehicle, or immobily watching the outside world move past. People are bored while waiting for the bus to arrive. People are bored while on busses. People are even bored as the exit the bus and proceed to their final destination. The same with cars, trains, planes, elevators! Haven’t you found waiting for a friend to pick you up or an extended layover in an airport terminal to be the most boring things in the world?

The interwoven theme within these activities and boredoms are obvious and yet extremely subtle. Mechanical transportation first and foremost is a separation of the transportee from the external world. Being the passenger of a vehicle, especially private transportation, comes with the complete disconnection from outside reality through movement. Accelerated movement is a way to play with time, space, and perspective. All three of these things become relative when waiting for and sitting in vehicles. Space and time are accelerated to the point that the transportee’s point of view is the only important one, relatively speaking. It does not matter what kind of looks or noises are directed at the passenger, as they will drive or fly by and forget in seconds.

It is this process of forgetting or not caring enough to remember that is definitive of the boredom of transportation. It hardly matters what is seen or heard from the outside, what is happening outside or what it means. This alienation from the outside world instills in us an emptiness which we call boredom. Idly staring out of the window, forcing sleep, reading or texting or pointlessly browsing the internet- these are all coping mechanisms to reconcile our passenger’s powerlessness. Humans are immediately entertained by things they can control or influence. Whether or not the novelty remains and fights boredom back depends on the subject and activity. Not having control or influence on something takes us to our innermost depths and creates a confusing, painful, and galvanizing mix of desire, frustration, and expectation. This inability to sit still, metaphysically speaking, is in my opinion the driving force of human nature and purpose, for better and worse.

Be it societal norms, evolutionary dogma, or biological ineptitude, we are a species almost universally incapable of sustained emotional and intellectual serenity. Those who successfully attain this seemingly unattainable Nirvana generally go through extreme circumstances- isolation, meditation, psychoactive rituals- in order to feel the simplest and most profound peace.

I suggest that the boredom or emptiness or discontent we feel when waiting or traveling is the antithesis of true Bliss, true Awakeness. We feel trapped, powerless, and existentially restless when our own perceptions of time and space don’t match the external worlds. As I still struggle daily with being trapped in my head and body at the whims of some intangible suffocating quasi-‘correct’ definition of time, purpose, lifespan, potential, and worth, it is difficult for me to propose a permanent and fitting solution to problem of waiting as a passenger. However, we’re we to legitimately try and understand ourselves and our emotions, we may find power and joy we never thought imaginable.

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