Institute takes great interest in boredom

July 19, 1995|By Tanya Barrientos | Tanya Barrientos,Knight-Ridder News Service

This story won't drone on and on like some other boring stories.

You've got things to do. Exciting things, no doubt.

Or, do you?

Maybe you don't. Maybe you're bored. Bored stiff.

Well, this is a story about a man who battles boredom. It's his quest. His crusade. He says boredom can lead to very dangerous things. But more on that later.

Boredom didn't start out as Alan Caruba's pursuit. Who, honestly, would devote himself to such a thing? No, it started out as a big joke.

One day about 10 years ago, Mr. Caruba, a public-relations consultant from Maplewood, N.J., decided life was getting too crowded with boring people, boring events and boring movies. And, being a former journalist, he decided to perform a public service and expose the entire tedious conspiracy, to strike a courageous blow against blowhards.

"I was watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, thinking how it looks the same, year after year," said Mr. Caruba, 57, reliving the moment his brilliant idea hit him.

"I did some heavy research and concluded that really the parade was a videotape that they played every year from coast to coast."

Mr. Caruba decided to alert the media.

"Then in December, I started seeing all those lists that the media always have -- what's in and what's not, the best of the year, the worst-dressed, the best-dressed -- and I said to myself the one list we are missing is a list of celebrities we are sick of hearing about."

So, Mr. Caruba founded the Boring Institute, and began sending out official-looking press releases announcing the Most Boring Celebrities of the Year awards.

That first year (1984), Mr. Caruba put Michael Jackson at the top of his list, and now looks back at that decision with pride.

"He was a lunatic then and he's just gotten worse since," said Mr. Caruba during a recent telephone interview.

The institute was an instant hit. And Mr. Caruba, being a man who makes a living hyping things, pushed the issue.

He started coming out with more lists of boring things. The most boring films of the year awards, with categories such as "big stars, big flops." The 1994 award went to the film "Body of Evidence."

He cranked out more tongue-in-cheek media blitzes, including a television list of what he calls the "fearless forecasts of TV's fall flops."

It was all in fun. Not one boring moment.

But, wouldn't you know it? Some people decided to take Mr. Caruba seriously.

BOR-ing!

"I received hundreds of letters, and it was obvious from the beginning that boredom was having a serious impact on some people's lives," said Mr. Caruba.

What could he do? He decided to get serious. So now, each July, the Boring Institute promotes the serious effects of boredom.

Mr. Caruba wasn't joking when he explained that he believes that boredom can lead to all kinds of social ills, including increased high-school dropout rates, gang violence, depression, eating disorders, drug abuse and even automobile deaths.

Yes, Mr. Caruba has linked boredom with all sorts of nasty things, saying that boredom is "an epidemic," especially among youngsters who don't know how to entertain themselves without watching television.

Mr. Caruba can go on and on about the serious side of boredom. He even says one of the alleged conspirators of the Oklsahoma City bombing was a victim of the evils of boredom.

Terry Nichols "learned to make bombs to avoid the boredom of farm-work," said Mr. Caruba in all seriousness.

"To some degree, it would be immoral of me not to try and reach out and say if you are bored, this is a warning sign of some real trouble," he said, explaining this somber twist on what started out as a joke.

Luckily, Mr. Caruba limits all his seriousness to July. It's a boring month anyway, right?

And, to be perfectly honest, the serious side of Mr. Caruba is, well, a tad boring.

But Mr. Caruba isn't letting that get to him. He doesn't want to get a complex about being boring. Because if anything could be more dangerous than boredom, it would probably be anxiety.

That's why Mr. Caruba has founded the National Anxiety Center.

But, that's another story. And we wouldn't want to bore you.

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