Left alone with my thoughts, I would probably shock myself.
It’s good to know I’m not the only one – even though I’m significantly different from Mrs. Brad. And maybe you.
Give Mrs. Brad some free time and she’s liable to sit in the backyard, look at birds and ponder life. Give her a long trip in a car and she’s likely to spend it in silence, thinking. Give her some time alone in the house and she will have it silent, quietly thinking through life’s issues.
In the same situation, I will turn on the stereo, check my cellphone every 30 seconds, try to read something (even a cereal box!) and look for something else to do – even if it means doing something stupid, like shocking myself.
I won’t sit quietly and think for long.
Others, apparently, are like me. A study published in the journal Science (my third favorite journal, behind Wall Street and Ladies Home) showed that despite our frequent claims that we want to have time alone, most of us are bad at it.
The study of college students revealed that after spending six to 15 minutes alone in a sparsely furnished room, most people didn’t particularly enjoy it. The most interesting part came when the students suffered a shock to their ankle and were asked how much they would pay to avoid another one – but were told they could shock themselves again during their time alone.
Nearly all of them said they’d pay to avoid a shock.
Then two-thirds of the men and one-fourth of the women shocked themselves to break the boredom.
I suspect I would do the same – based on my experience as a college freshman working at a laundromat, when I often sat bored at night after finishing my homework. One night, I checked to see how hard it would be to put out a match using just my forefinger and thumb. No saliva – I wanted to see if I could simply pinch it out.
I got a blister on my thumb, but it was better than boredom, I guess.
According to the study, most of us like the idea of being alone with our thoughts more than actually doing it.
It’s nothing new. While many people blame modern technology – after all, with cellphones, laptops, tablets and hundreds of channels on our TVs, it’s so easy to bounce around and bombard our minds with stimuli.
But as someone who grew up in the pre-Internet age, I can attest to the fact that you don’t need modern high-tech conveniences to bombard yourself. A copy of “Baseball Digest,” an AM radio and an old-fashioned TV with three channels was enough for me.
If they could only come up with a newer way to shock ourselves.
I presume that if Apple came out with a new product called iShock, we’d not only do it, but we’d Tweet about it. Then we’d have to come up with something to distract us because iShock wouldn’t be enough.
People like Mrs. Brad – who are content to sit silently – wouldn’t understand. But they also wouldn’t get the satisfaction of a good distraction.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.