By BEN R. WILLIAMS
I don’t often get bored. I enjoy doing nothing at all, and even when I’m doing nothing, I always have something that I could (or more likely should) be doing.
However, when I was about 15 years old, I found myself as bored as I have ever been in my life, and I have a small town in South Carolina to thank.
The story began when my mom decided to visit an old friend of hers in the aforementioned South Carolina town. I know enough people in tourism and government to know that this town definitely would not appreciate being called out by name, so instead, we’ll call it Blandsville.
I ended up going to Blandsville, SC with my mom. I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time so I didn’t have too many other options, but it seemed like an innocuous enough trip.
Of course, I began to realize the error of my ways when we entered the Blandsville town limits. The entire town looked like someone had taken every single boring element of the Carolinas and combined them. Boring pine trees grew out of boring, flat, sandy earth. Boring fast food restaurants were interspersed with boring dollar stores. Boring beige office buildings lined the business district, and I assume the people inside the buildings were boring people doing boring things.
We arrived at the home of my mom’s friend, which was actually the home of my mom’s friend’s late mother. We stepped inside a bland home that had not been changed or updated since 1963. The air conditioning was either off or malfunctioning, so the temperature hovered at around 77 degrees. There were no fans.
We hadn’t had lunch yet, so my mom’s friend took us to her favorite restaurant in Blandsville. It was an Italian restaurant, and I was excited to learn it was not part of a chain. I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a taste of the local flavor.
We pulled up in front of the saddest restaurant I have ever seen, the sort of restaurant that looked like it might have been a real hotspot back in 1978 but had been on a gradual downhill slide for at least 20 years. We went inside and sat down at a sticky table, my mom and I quietly observing the yellow fly strips dangling from the ceiling. I ordered a sub. It was perfectly adequate. As I ate it, I watched a wino staggering through the parking lot of the blighted strip mall next door. I distinctly remember John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” playing over the restaurant’s sound system, and I tried to figure out if that song choice was bitterly sarcastic or cruelly ironic.
We returned to the warm house and sat in the living room, the only sound the steady tick of a grandfather clock.
And that was pretty much how the rest of the week went.
There was nothing to do in Blandsville. There was no art community. There was no hip spot for young people. There was no arcade. There were just chain restaurants, office buildings and pine trees. Visiting Blandsville felt like visiting an alternate reality where America lost a major war.
I did all I could to keep myself entertained. I tried reading the books I brought with me. I tried playing my Game Boy. Nothing worked. Blandsville’s boring tentacles had wormed their way into my brain. Fun was outlawed in Blandsville.
There is only one moment I remember from the trip to Blandsville that could be described as entertaining: A lightning bolt had messed up the picture on my mom’s friend’s TV and she hired a local repairman to come fix it. He showed up one evening with a homemade degaussing coil – basically an electrified ring – and he spent about ten minutes waving it over the TV screen until the colors returned to normal.
This was the high point of the week.
Awhile back, my mom mentioned her friend in Blandsville and I asked her if she could remember exactly how long we were in the town. I couldn’t remember if we were there for five days or for a full week.
As it turns out, it was an overnight trip.
If you ever feel like life is too short, I recommend moving to Blandsville, South Carolina. While science has yet to discover the key to immortality, life in Blandsville makes each day seem like an eternity.