A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The other day I had another argument with my television set. We are no longer speaking, it and I. I think it’s better if we stay away from each other for a while rather than say or do things we might regret later. I’m not one to badmouth things behind their backs; if I have anything to say, I’ll say it right to the screen. However, my TV is as petulant as a Somali warlord and about half as predictable. Still, every grey cloud has a silver lining, and while my TV and I have been giving each other the cold shoulder I’ve had time to reevaluate our relationship.
I must admit my TV is not totally to blame for our breakup. It’s apparent we’ve grown apart in recent years. Sadly, even though it has tried to keep the magic alive, introducing new channels and keeping the picture quality bright and beautiful, I find myself longing for the good old days when it was just the two of us. We only had basic cable then and a mechanical videotape machine (that flashed 12:00, 12:00, 12:00) but we were young and reckless and it didn’t matter. These days my TV sets the time by itself – from a satellite. It doesn’t need me or the Owner’s Manual. In fact, there is no Owner’s Manual, anymore; everything comes preset. I remember it, though: the childlike wonder of exploring new features, experimenting with the settings, long afternoons slowly coaxing the perfect contrast and brightness levels; each subtle change responding to my touch. Once, I switched the default language to Spanish as a prank; in better times, we still laugh about that one. Then there were those long winter nights when I’d stop off at Blockbuster or Videomatica. We’d order pizza and spend the evening in the darkness, laughing with Tom Hanks or the Blues Brothers. One weekend, we just stayed home and watched the entire Star Wars trilogy – twice! Those were good times, back in the day.
In all honesty, I haven’t been totally faithful to my TV. I’ve watched movies on my computer and played games on my telephone. But they were sordid affairs on darkened, domestic flight airlines and city buses. They didn’t mean anything to me. I used earphones and never got the full experience. In fact, they only made me appreciate my 40 inch flat screen — with stereo theatre sound-around — all the more.
I suppose it was just the day-to-day routine that drove me to use other devices. I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it, but there’s a sameness about it – no spontaneity, no discovery, no trembling anticipation. Despite all the channels, the HD picture, the iTunes Video on Demand, it always comes back to the same old/same old: know-it-all detective shows and dysfunctional family drama.
In fact, that was what the argument was about in the first place. I wanted to watch something different for once, but it was already recording two “We’re all Doomed” documentaries and refused to change without killing one of them. Then I accidently killed them both and recorded a stupid insult sitcom with Charlie Sheen. So you see, it wasn’t actually her fault, at all. In fact, she was just doing what she thought I wanted. At the end of the day, that’s the real problem. I haven’t kept up with all the changes in her life. I really don’t know what half her remote buttons do anymore, and I haven’t given her the quality time it takes to find out. It’s no wonder she thinks I take her for granted. Yet, there she is, all by herself in the corner, quietly recording Season Three of Downton Abbey just so I don’t miss an episode. I guess it wouldn’t kill me to go over and see if she wants to take a look at HBO and see if there’s something on. Besides, I’m sure she wouldn’t want me to miss the NFL playoffs this weekend.
But I don’t think it’s a good time to say anything about the “Words with Friends” app I’ve got on my telephone.