Issue 35, Final Fringe

Résumé Against Boredom

by Ian Singleton Issue 31 08.20.2012

Objective :

I began work at age 14 to save for a car.

Relevant Experience:

  • Retail Salesman

I walked the floor of a costume and accessory shop to encourage sales. Leering masks of the worst celebrities, augmented into even more ghoulish versions, hung sentinel over us on hooks angled into their empty craniums: our premier items. Halloween theme songs looped over the span of the six-hour shift. Of course, obvious boredom was forbidden. I chatted with my biker coworker, even rode home once with another coworker—an older girl who dressed in our Catwoman costume to attract customers. Soon talking amongst ourselves was forbidden too. I dressed like Gumby and stood in front of the shop to pass the minimum-wage hours—$4.15 at the time—and encouraged sales. Some classmates shoved Gumby against the wall and slapped him. Halloween passed.

  • Would-be Sandwich Artist

When boredom shined his pale countenance, my hands prepared with fury. Customers fled when I slung cold cuts. Our manager was an ex-drug dealer who had sold through the sub shop, but who also swore all statutes of limitations had come to term. The crackhead, who removed pans bare-handed, dropped elbows on me from the sneeze guard. We tossed knives, passed around a bloated bladder of a sanitary glove filled with water, smoked cigarettes over the accounts the manager cooked, toked in the freezer. We couldn’t stand the boredom, one sub following another, no matter how unique, how special it was to us, to our customer. I closed the shop during lunch rush one day, drove home, and hung up my apron.

  • Telemarketer

Not the most boring job. The needling our voices took on after too many repetitions of the script pricked our customers, mostly poor working stiffs themselves. Boredom broke us down. Our friends impersonated customers and made false sale agreements to meet quota and salvage our Saturday afternoons following the morning shift. But insurance salesmen don’t like their time wasted. They’re bored too.

  • Closer at a Doughnut Shop

I closed a doughnut shop for three months. From the first night the job bored me until the trainer lobbed an overfull Bavarian cream at my face, which burst like a pimple. But then he was gone. The doughnut-makers arrived at two a.m. to prepare those cursed rings, dying of bored exhaustion. The doughnut has stirred nausea in me ever since.

  • Museum Guide

I counted money and directed tourists at a museum built by Henry Ford to memorialize the car every family in his town owned. By this point, I had my relief from boredom programmed—I finished reading novels there, awaiting coughs or throatings to interrupt me. I smoked with the Henry Ford look-alike, sneering at the cashier who quoted Old Hank[1], calling cigarettes “the little white slaver.”

  • Letter Carrier – U.S. Postal Service

The job of Bukowski and Faulkner before him, though the latter was a clerk. My pride fended off boredom for a longer while than most jobs: I fed off it, humping my bag through the streets and almost never deadheading[2], then hiding out in the back of restaurants waiting for the sun to set, darkness being a “safety hazard.” The office drives clerks mad with its teeming boredom, its windowless fluorescence, and echoing repetition of boredom’s soundtrack. I was free and began my sequel to Post Office[3] on the backs of junk mail envelopes until, bored brainless, I crashed the truck.

  • Librarian

By this point, I was well aware of boredom’s power over workers. I advertised reading, free of charge to the library where I circulated books. How could one deny me the pride of doing my job? Shouldn’t all librarians advertise what keeps them fed? The understood rule is: librarians should be seen but not listened to.

Related Skills:

  • I do my work on the job. Interpret as you wish.
  • The man, the overseer, wants me bored. Old Hank, at whose museum I worked, knew how to cage a man in procedures rather than leave him to do his work. The managers will even bore me trying to unbore themselves, talking about their bad work. I fight the boredom, wrangle it, tuck it into a locked drawer.
  • Bored workers have no imagination or don’t use it. Bored workers stand and wait for the customer: at the library they stare, with gazes desert-long, into the shelves of books forbidden them to read. They’re as translucent as ghosts. All thought wrung from them by the hands of the manager, the good worker who took the lead with boredom and hardsticking his nose to the grindstone—the nice guy who never wanted to ruffle anyone’s feathers, rather fluff them a bit, comb them, flatten them to a boring plane. God be with them. This is my example? My imagination damp or inexistent?

References:

Read the newest British study in the International Journal of Epidemiology[4]: “We conclude that those who report being bored are more likely to die younger than those who are not bored.”

Goals:

Of course, I never admit boredom. Trouble comes, and work is necessary. But when I’m bored, when I ache because of infernal labor and dream of a bar with a highball and an ashtray, when I hurry early through the lunchroom and watch the last minutes of the day take their time to pass, when the habit is more comfortable than breaking it and my life’s no longer necessary, save for my working limb—why then, I write a little rhyme, a haiku, sing a song or a poem, draw myself throwing a left hook at a boss, stare out the window at the day I’m missing, the time I’m not spending but earning. I kill the boredom. I kill it before it kills me.


[1] “Old Hank,” i.e., Henry Ford.[2] For a letter carrier, to walk without delivering mail, or, to be moving without making any progress.

[3] Post Office by Charles Bukowski

[4] Annie Britton and Martin J. Shipley. “Bored to death?” International Journal of Epidemiology 2010:1-2.

Ian Singleton

Ian Singleton

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Ian Singleton is an award-winning (2004 Hopwood Award) writer, essayist, and translator. He has publications in several journals such as Fiddleblack, Prick of the Spindle, and Conte. He holds an MFA from Emerson College and has studied writing at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Stanford University. His first collection of short stories, Cussing, will come out in 2015.