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Bored to Tears

It is perhaps ironic that the same person who explained to me the origin of the expression “put a sock in it” simultaneously was the catalyst for my understanding the origin of another expression. That would be “bored to tears,” and I feel totally guilty for saying something so mean.

It all started with today’s plan for Simon and I to visit the Edison House in Butchertown, then walk the Big 4 Bridge from Louisville to Indiana, grab a bite of lunch, go get a treat at Schimpff’s Confectionery, and then walk back to the Louisville side. It seemed like a fun enough way to spend an afternoon together and gave us the chance to put our first stamp in this summer’s Culture Pass Challenge, a program encouraging kids to visit cultural institutions during the summer.

The Edison House is a tiny little double shotgun cottage where Thomas Edison lived for one year when he came to Louisville to work for Western Union. Simon has been to a few grand old homes, and I thought seeing a tiny boarding room might be a real eye opener for him. Edison’s room could not have been more than about 300 square feet, and it held his bed (much smaller than the one Matt says Simon is about to out-grow, fyi), his bathroom (wash stand and chamber pot), his kitchen and furnace (the fireplace), and his office (a drop-leaf desk).

The staff member or volunteer who greeted us could not have been more kind or informative. I got the impression that many people are in and out in a flash and that he was relishing the chance to talk to people in less of a hurry. Simon’s being able to answer some early questions about history no doubt further encouraged him. The guide has lived his whole life down the block from the Edison House, and as such has seen the fortunes of the neighborhood vacillate wildly.*

He also has extensive knowledge about history in general and Thomas Edison in particular. We started out hearing about Edison’s room, what brought him to Louisville, and how he got fired from one job for conducting experiments during the night shift. That was pretty cool. But then it segued into some minute particulars about the neighborhood and Edison’s research, and I could see that Simon’s attention was maxing out.

Then we got a 10-minute history of the stock ticker tape, one of Edison’s inventions, at which point I was struggling to maintain an interested facade myself. Simon was getting wriggly, and at one point I looked over at him and realized that his chin was getting wobbly and his eyes were growing moist. He was literally bored to tears.

At this point, I started dropping not-so-subtle hints that we needed to leave. Our helpful and informative guide contained himself the best he could, but it was still too much for someone Simon’s age. We both perked up for the demonstration of a cylinder phonograph, dropped more hints that time was getting away from us, and left our guide in a state of visible regret when we left.

He had so much more to tell us! Once we were safely out of hearing distance, I explained to Simon that some people don’t understand how much information a little kid can process all at once and that our guide was just trying to be nice and helpful. Then I praised the heck out of him for being so polite and doing his best to hold it together.

As for “put a sock in it”, this relates to early phonograph machines. Edison’s featured a small plunger that sat inside the speaker and dimmed the volume. A copy-cat brand did not have the little plunger, so when you wanted to lower the volume you “put a sock” in the speaker.

Hours later, I feel a bit sad about the man who has more information to share than most visitors want to hear. Had I been alone, would have let him tell me everything. Mostly, though, I feel like the wrong member of my family visited. My brother Steve could have hung with the entire tour. He loves hearing people’s stories. And in an ideal world my brother Perry would have a bourbon or two down in NuLu, walk up to the Edison House, and have an hour-long conversation with that man about light bulbs: They’d both be in heaven. I need to find a way to make that happen.

*Just nine years ago when I moved back to Louisville, East Market St., two blocks south of the Edison House, was not much more than a bunch of decrepit warehouses in a crime-ridden area. Now it’s the heart of NuLu and home to some of the city’s best galleries, shops, and restaurants.

One Response to “Bored to Tears”

  1. Amanda says:

    Sounds like Simon did really well and was a trooper.

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