Lynn Ashby

THE COCKTAIL PARTY – “How’s it going?” I say to a friend who, among others, is sipping drinks in my den. When he just nods, I try again. “What’s new on the job?” He sighs. “Let’s not talk about banking. It’s so boring.”

This guy is president of one of the biggest banks in Houston and thus one of the biggest in Texas. He handles large amounts of money and makes decisions affecting other people’s lives, and he finds the job boring. Actually, I would, too. But when you go to college and major in banking, work your way up to a big time job with a huge paycheck, and then find your job ho-hum, that seems like the waste of a life. 

Are you boring? You quite probably don’t think of yourself as that, but you just may be. Certain characteristics – and professions – can make a person appear boring, even if they aren’t. Data analysis, cleaning and – yes -- banking are the most boring jobs. As for hobbies, religion, watching TV and observing animals – bird watchers – are uninteresting pursuits and thus are done by uninteresting people.

The lack of a sense of humor, having no opinions or complaining a lot make for a boring person. Also “uneducated" or "has a monotonous voice" probably means you’re a bore. We know this because of work done by a team led by University of Essex psychology researcher Wijnand Van Tilburg, as reported in my must-read mail, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It gets worse for these folks: Participants in the study demanded a bunch of money for spending time with a “stereotypical bore.” 

On the other hand, these negative stereotypes may actually be quite interesting, but we avoid them and they don’t get a chance to prove how really interesting and clever they are.

For example, the research team wondered why the participants in the study said that boring people were also seen as incompetent even though there really is no link between the two. "I would have thought that accountants would be seen as boring, but effective and the perfect person to do a good job on your tax return," said Van Tilburg. "The truth of the matter is people like bankers and accountants are highly capable and have power in society – perhaps we should try not to upset them and stereotype them as boring."

This reminds me of the line: “I became an accountant because they said I didn’t have the personality to be an undertaker.” I would consider bird watching boring, but some people love to wake at dawn, put on rubber boots and heavy sweaters and tromp through marshes just to spot, and maybe photograph, a Tawny Frogmouth. There is an expression in journalism when reading some long and pointless news story: MEGO. Mine Eyes Glaze Over.

I feel the same when reading complicated pages full of numbers, yet I know three accountants quite well and they are all witty, well-read and, importantly, make lots of money. The study’s participants found that religion is boring and an uninteresting pursuit. Yes, long-winded sermons can be uninteresting. Celibate priests lecturing us on sex, abortions and LGBTQ are boring. So are televangelists who live in multi-million dollar mansions, drive a Maserati and tell us to give to the poor (while passing the offering plate). But watching TV is boring?

I watch a lot of TV, mostly news, sports and PBS. But millions of people watch those stupid sitcoms with their recorded laff-tracks, and I can’t. The worst are the award shows. “I want to thank etc. etc.” Yawn. Cleaning was listed as boring. No argument there. Over the centuries lots of people have enjoyed opera and golf. What do they know that I don’t know? I can’t understand the words in an opera and, unless Tiger Woods hits a hole-in-one, I suffer from terminal ennui.

Is your job boring? Standing there all day on the pig rendering line wishing you had a more exciting and rewarding career like being a lighthouse keeper? Many Americans must feel that way and we are seeing a perfect example: Because of the pandemic, millions of workers left their jobs or are working at home and don’t want to go back to their old workplace.

There are several reasons: Don’t like commuting, particularly with $4-a-gallon gas. Living in a city that has become too expensive so they are moving to Pecos. (U.S. housing prices have risen by 30 percent since the pandemic began. Monthly rents are up 18 percent nationally.) COVID-19 is still leading to more than 4,000 hospitalizations per day in the U.S., and some workers feel the recent uptick in COVID cases could mean a new and dangerous wave. 

In January, the number of people who quit voluntarily was 4.3 million, or 2.9 percent of the labor force. That’s down from a record high in November but still quite high and shows people feel confident about finding a better job – one that is not so boring. If you are considering not going back to the same old cookie-cutter cubicle at Toxic Toys, consider something more exciting and rewarding. Become a cop or go through a school’s library and burn any books that you find offensive. Volunteer to serve in the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. (You can become an instant Ukrainian citizen.) 

Or if you are looking for an exciting, fulfilling job, become a journalist. OK, today there are probably more unemployed journalists than employed, but apply anyway. It’s not boring. You get to hang around with politicians, drug dealers, global warming deniers and other undesirables. You receive hate mail, obscene phone calls and questions from people who ask, “Why doesn’t the press tell us about…” and then recites something they learned from the press. Back at my cocktail party, my bored banker asked, “What do you think about…?” “Do the Astros…?” “Is it true that….?” Maybe he should consider robbing banks.  

Ashby is excited at

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(1) comment


This column is boring! So is the news

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