Years ago, at another publication, I held a contest among our readers to identify the most boring headline published in a newspaper. There were many excellent submissions, but none beat the headline that had inspired the contest. It was over a New York Times column by Flora Lewis—the Tom Friedman of her day—and it was three simple words: "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." To this day, I think, it has not been topped.
Now, I think I have discovered the most boring article ever published in a newspaper, and I invite rival claims. (Use the comment section at the bottom of this article). One rule: The boredom must be caused by the banality of the story. Boredom by sheer length doesn’t count.
The story that grabbed my inattention was in the New York Times on Monday, July 26. It was about a man who used to take long walks around the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, until he died last week. That’s it. That’s the story. In Silver Lake, he was wittily known as "the Walking Man." (You see, it’s because he walked all the time).
Was he a homeless man who walked because he tragically had no place to go? No, he was a family doctor named Marc Abrams. Was he an eccentric recluse who lived in squalor and scared the neighborhood children? No, he lived in a house with a hot tub next to the reservoir with his wife, Cindy. Cindy worked with him in his practice. Did he walk every day, rain or shine? No, only “near-daily.” Did he reject all conversational overtures due to the intensity of his need to keep walking, walking, walking? No, a local restaurant owner used to “walk half a block with him” and “strike up a conversation.” People along his route knew him from “years of drive-by small talk.” So what inner demons possessed him and caused him to take long walks nearly every day? The Times reporter asked neighbors. “He walked, he told them, to keep fit.” Of all things.
True, he was only 58 and was found dead in the hot tub. And he was being sued for malpractice. The police haven’t ruled out suicide. These quasi-interesting facts, buried near the end of the piece, “may complicate an effort by local residents to name the path around Silver Lake reservoir after him.” But last Sunday, “several bloggers” organized a memorial walk, and “several hundred people” walked in his memory. “They walked past signs and a few bouquets of flowers for him…then set off toward a strip of cafes and boutiques.” So much for Dr. Abrams.
Can you top this?
[Editor's note: You can also tweet your responses to Kinsley's contest to #mostboringarticleever with a headline and link.]
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